Jon Heyman of CBS Sports is reporting that the Nationals have agreed to terms with the Oakland A’s on a deal that would send Yunel Escobar to Washington.
Bill Ladson of MLB.com later added that Clippard was part of the trade.
The team then announced the trade as a one for one swap, Escobar for Clippard.
Escobar is likely coming over to replace Asdrubal Cabrera at second base, but he is a natural shortstop and is under contract through 2016 with a club option for 2017. With incumbent shortstop Ian Desmond scheduled to become a free agent following the 2015 season Escobar could slide over to short for the next two seasons while top prospects, Trea Turner and Wilmer Difo, get more seasoning in the minors.
Escobar has been a streaky player throughout a career, never ableto consistently perform at a high level year after year. He’s also been known to have some character concerns that came to really light after a Escobar wrote a homophobic message on his eyeblack. His past two seasons in Tampa have been relatively quite though and he seems to have cleaned up his act, at least in public anyways.
In terms of his on field performance Escobar is an upgrade over the Nats’ current second base options. He is a career .276/.347/.381 hitter, but last year he was below all of his career norms, hitting just .258/.324/.340. He also hit just 25 extra base hits last season, and while he’s never been a power hitter he did have 27 doubles the year prior. Now on the wrong side of 30, it may be time wonder if last year was more than just a down year and the beginning of his decline.
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As for his defense, it has never been his calling card, but it got a lot worse in 2014. Prior to last season he hadn’t had a year with negative Defensive Runs Saved, but in 2014 his defense was worth -24 runs. The worst in baseball among shortstops by eight runs and second worst in all of baseball behind only Nick Castellanos. Moving to second base should help him out, but he hasn’t played the position since 2007. As a matter of fact, he hasn’t played any position other than short since 2007 save for the one out he was on the field for in left.
All in all Clippard seems like a steep price to pay for Escobar. Clippard was a steady presence in the back of the Nationals bullpen, posting a 2.68 ERA over the past seven seasons. This move does give the Nationals flexibility in the middle of the infield for the next couple years, so it might have been an overpay, but a move the team needed to make.