October 17, 2019

Should Washington Nationals trade Tyler Clippard?

I usually stay out of the fray when it comes to the Hot Stove league. Generally, I’d rather comment on what happened rather than try to sift through all the noise that the click-baiters are trying to generate this time of year.

But one of the Washington Nationals biggest decisions — among several, I might add — is whether to seize a good opportunity to move a reliable, veteran player that is going to get expensive very quickly before he is eligible for free agency.

Not Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister or Ian Desmond, though the same applies to all three.

No, obviously from the title of the article you know that I’m already talking about Tyler Clippard.

Clippard, 30 on opening day, is already getting bites from general managers across the league. Nats GM Mike Rizzo said on the radio the other day he’s already “penciled in” Drew Storen as closer for next season, which leaves Clippard as the main set-up guy again, a role he’s performed admirably the past six-plus seasons, including two all-star campaigns.

Clippard has shown no signs of slowing down, posting a 7-4 record, 2.18 ERA, 0.995 WHIP and 10.5/2.9 K/BB ration last season. In fact, it might have been his most impressive season, including his 32-save year of 2012.

But here’s the deal: desperate teams will dramatically overpay for a closer, and Clippard could fill that bill. He’s reliable, consistent and excellent. He’s also going to get very expensive for a set-up guy very quickly, but still have a quite reasonable salary for a closer.

Think that’s screwed up? Sure it is. But that’s how desperate teams think. To go out on the free agent market to acquire a veteran closer is a fool’s errand, and it’s prohibitively expensive. One needs to look no further than the two-year Rafael Soriano experiment here.

So smaller or mid-market teams looking for a veteran reliever that can close can do that on the trade market easier than outbid the bigger-market teams in free agency.

Clippard made $5.875 million last season and is 3rd year arbitration eligible, meaning this is his last arbitration before becoming a free agent at the age of 31 after the upcoming season. Considering his track record of excellence, two all-star noms and almost unprecedented reliability, Clippard will probably command $8 million-plus in arbitration this year.

Can the Nats afford to pay their set-up guy $8 million, and have any hope of re-signing Zimmermann, Fister or Desmond? Not to even mention looking down the road at Stephen Strasburg or Bryce Harper.

Mike Rizzo and the Lerner family are going to have some bridges to cross in the next couple of seasons, and this is one of them. The team has plenty of arms currently in the bullpen and plenty more candidates where they came from. If Rizzo has proven one thing as GM, it’s that he loves stockpiling mid-level starter prospects with big arms and has had real good success turning them into reliable relievers.

Clippard was the first.

Despite the Lerner’s deep pockets, they aren’t limitless — at least when it comes to baseball finances. Rizzo might have to start to pick-and-choose on the players he retains and the players he moves to re-stock the cupboards.

Clippard might be that first hard choice this winter, even before Zimmermann, Fister or Desmond.

NHL Trade Deadline: All quiet on the Washington Capitals front?

What happens if you throw a party and no one comes? The NHL might be about to find out.

The NHL Trade Deadline is Wednesday at 3:00 pm, but thus far there’s been less action than at a Fancy Stat convention. The same holds true at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, where the Washington Capitals practiced in advance of the deadline. And by the looks of it, it’ll be as quiet here as it has been all around the league so far.

Mike Ribeiro - Captials practice at Kettler, September 14, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

Mike Ribeiro – Captials practice at Kettler, September 14, 2012 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page)

The Caps biggest trade chip, UFA Mike Ribeiro, did not practice in the Caps optional practice this morning, but he did meet the media. And if he’s a guy that had any inkling that he was about to be traded, he must be the world’s greatest poker player. He was very relaxed with the media and indicated a strong opinion that he would neither be traded — nor re-signed — by Caps GM George McPhee today.

“I don’t really see myself moved or signed today,” Ribeiro said matter of factly.

The veteran center was much more focused on the Caps game Thursday night against the Islanders as they continue to re-insert themselves into serious playoff contention despite being left for dead several times this season.

“I still have the rest of this year of my contract,” he continued. “Nothing changes. I still have a lot of time after today if they want to sign me or not. For me, it’s to keep playing and make the playoffs and at some point, we can talk and get things done and see where it goes from there.”

In fact, most of the players today seemed to brush off the trade talk. If any of them are concerned about being traded, they didn’t show it, or dismissed it as “part of the game.”

The Caps are in a tough spot, despite being more than $7 million under the salary cap. They have several restricted free agents — notably Karl Alzner and Marcus Johansson — that will require a raise for next season. If McPhee decides to hold pat, play out the string and take his lumps either way this season, it’s completely understandable.

The Caps have three options with Ribeiro: trade him for assets and admit to a rebuild, re-sign him to a four or five year contract the player has indicated he will be looking for, or let him play through the season and allow him to walk as a free agent for no compensation. It’s a tough call either way.

Do you give a multi-million deal to a 33 year old who is enjoying a career year, yet is unlikely to come close to earning his paycheck at the end of the deal? Do you break up a team that could very well sneak into the playoffs? Or do you deal him for picks and prospects and weaken an already flawed team?

Only George McPhee can answer these questions, and we’ll find out a little after 3:00 pm today which way he’ll go.

Washington Nationals: Buyers at MLB Trade Deadline finally, but are Nats going shopping?

The Washington Nationals have a well deserved off-day Monday after winning eight of their last ten games to hold a share of MLB’s best record with the red-hot Cincinnati Reds at 61-40. They also have a four-game lead over the Atlanta Braves in the N.L. East. Teams in their position historically are known as “buyers” at the MLB Trade Deadline, which is 4:00 pm Tuesday.

Will the Nats be buyers? [Read more…]

Washington Nationals reportedly interested in Arizona OF Gerardo Parra

Last week it was Phil Wood of MASN that mentioned it.  Today, MLB.com’s Bill Ladson said the same.

The Washington Nationals apparently are poking around at the Arizona Diamondbacks Gold Glove outfielder Gerardo Parra.  The D-Backs may make Parra available after acquiring Jason Kubel this off-season to play left field.  Parra would be a fourth outfielder for Arizona, with Justin Upton and Chris Young as fixtures in the desert.

GM Mike Rizzo signed Parra to his first professional contract in 2004 when he was a member of the D-Backs front office. [Read more…]

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