Washington Nationals Free Agent Profile: Tyler Clippard


With Drew Storen now in Toronto, there is another former National on the free agent market who can be a setup man.

The big news involving the Washington Nationals this weekend was the trade that sent reliever Drew Storen to the Toronto Blue Jays for Ben Revere. With that trade, it appears (barring another trade) that Jonathan Papelbon will be the closer in 2016. However, who is going to be the new setup man in the nation’s capital. On Saturday, general manager and president of baseball operations, Mike Rizzo, talked about how the Nats might fill the void left by Storen:

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Most of the prominent free agent relievers are off the board, but there is one name the Nationals should consider and it’s a player who used to wear the curly W: Tyler Clippard. Last season, Clippard appeared in 69 games with the Oakland Athletics and the New York Mets. He went 5-4 with a 2.92 ERA, but his 4.27 FIP was the highest he has had in his career since 2009.

Last offseason, the Nats dealt Clippard to Oakland to get Yunel Escobar. While Escobar was a huge help to the offense, the Nats missed Clippard at times in their bullpen. He was one of their best relievers in 2014 when he went 7-4 in 75 games with a 2.18 ERA and had a career-low FIP of 2.75. In his seven seasons with the Nats (2008-2014), he had a 2.68 ERA in 414 appearances.

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On Friday, Mike Puma of the New York Post reported that the Mets are willing to re-sign Clippard if he agrees to take a one-year deal. The question would be if the Nats would go to a two-year deal, could they bring him back and add him to a bullpen that has new additions in Oliver Perez, Trevor Gott, Shawn Kelley, and Yusmeiro Petit.

Clippard was the closer in Oakland when Sean Doolittle was out due to injury and he went 17-for-21 in save situations. Then, at the July trade deadline, the right-hander, who will be 31 in February, was dealt to the Mets for pitching prospect Casey Misener. He was the setup man with New York and had a 3.06 ERA in 32 regular season appearances (6.75 ERA in eight postseason appearances).

Over the past couple of seasons, Clippard has relied more on his changeup. According to Fangraphs, his changeup percentage has gone from 28.4% in 2013 to 38.4% in 2015. His average fastball velocity has also dropped from 92.8 miles per hour in 2012 to 91.5 miles per hour in 2015. His strikeout per nine innings dropped rom 10.5 in 2014 to 8.1 in 2015.

If the Washington Nationals can get Clippard back at the right price for either a one or two-year deal, he would be a perfect fit to put behind Papelbon in the eighth inning. Even though he battled a back injury during the end of the season, Clippard has appeared in 65+ games each of the last five seasons. He would be a durable option to bring back to the Nats’ bullpen.