Who will replace Tyler Clippard in the eighth inning?

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Aug 20, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals manager

Matt Williams

(9) removes relief pitcher

Tyler Clippard

(36) from the game against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the eighth inning at Nationals Park. The Nationals won 3-2. Mandatory Credit:

Brad Mills

-USA TODAY Sports

After staying pat most of the offseason, the Nationals finally made a trade earlier this week that will directly impact the 2015 season. In an effort to fill a whole at second base that was left when Asdrubal Cabrera departed via free agency, the Nationals acquired veteran infielder Yunel Escobar from the Athletics in exchange for long-time Nationals set-up man Tyler Clippard.

While the deal was a good for the Nationals for many reasons, it created some issues for the Nationals bullpen – a bullpen that entered the offseason as one of the most dominant in baseball. First and foremost, the Nationals are going to miss Clippard’s production, which has been one of the bullpen’s biggest assets for years.

In seven seasons with the Nationals, Clippard went 34-24 with a 2.68 ERA and a WHIP of 1.047. Over that time, the reliever accumulated 34 saves (32 of which came in 2012) and was selected to the National League All-Star team twice.

The Escobar trade not only strips the Nationals of arguable their best reliever, but it also creates some serious logistical issues for the ‘pen.

For one, the Nationals have essentially lost their second-string closer. If Drew Storen were to struggle out of the closers role, or if he were to land on the disabled list, the Nationals no longer have a clear option to take his place.

A more immediate issue, however, is the fact that the Nationals need to figure out who will step in to take Clippard’s spot in the eighth inning. It should be noted that Clippard was likely going to leave via free agency next winter, so the Nationals would have had to deal with this issue down the road anyway.

But, because of the Escobar trade, replacing Clippard has suddenly become a pressing need for the Nationals and one that will have a major impact on the bullpen in 2015. As for who will replace the right-hander, the Nationals have several different options. And while we probably won’t know who will step into the eighth inning role until the season starts, it’s important to look at what options the team will have next season so we know what to expect. We’ll discuss a some of those options over the next few slides.

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