Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Why is Tyler Clippard appearing in Trade Rumors?


Clippard is inarguably the glue of the Nationals much-improved bullpen. Photo Meaghan Gay/

(editor’s note: its been quiet on nationalsarmrace.  Its been a Bad bad week for work, with yours truly finishing up a project and starting a new job next monday.  I’ve got some stuff written but its not complete, I’m hoping to get some time this w/e to post.  Apologies for radio silence).

In the baseball calendar, the all-star break represents the mid-way point of the season (despite it annually occurring a few games AFTER the 81st game for teams).  But for transaction mavens, it also marks the beginning of the pre-waiver wire trade season.  The Nationals have enjoyed unexpected success in 2011, playing far above predictions and its unclear to some whether we’re Buyers, Sellers or somewhere in-between.  Frankly, we should be thinking of selling no matter what our record.  We’re 9 games back of the Wild Card (Atlanta) and they’re a far superior team to us.  We need to acknowledge this fact and start cashing in every veteran free agent on a one-year contract that we can.

That means we move every one of this list of players if we can: Jason Marquis (to the pitching starved Yankees or Red Sox perhaps?), Ivan Rodriguez (to the Giants, who need catching depth and love veterans), Jerry Hairston, Rick Ankiel, Todd Coffey (to Texas maybe, who craves bullpen help and has been scouting him), Alex Cora, Livan Hernandez, Laynce Nix and even Matt Stairs.   Of course, most of these guys are playing at or below replacement level and are not going anywhere.  But some definitely have value.  Marquis and Coffey are the two most obvious trade candidates, followed by Pudge.

(Side note: Do I advocate trading Laynce Nix?  Yes I do.  He’s playing at a high level in-arguably, but there’s no spot for him next year.  LaRoche can only play 1st, which pushes Morse back to Left.  Nix can’t play anywhere else.  He’s too good to be a 4th outfielder and his value is high right now.  We should flip him for a prospect now).

Now, in addition to the typical trade candidates mentioned above, we keep reading rumors that list both Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen as being tradeable assets.  And I can’t quite understand why.

On the one hand, relievers are and should be treated as nearly fungible assets to be used and then discarded when they’re done.   I even believe this when it comes to closers, and will cite lots of research done by people like Joe Posnanski about how even with $10M closers MLB teams are winning almost the exact same percentage of games with 3-run leads in the 9th inning now that they did in the 50s before the closer was invented.

However, I completely acknowledge that Clippard is easily our most important reliever, more valuable and better than Storen, and I love the fact that we’re using our best reliever right now in the highest leverage situations instead of letting him sit on his ass waiting for a “save opportunity” while the 5th best guy in your pen tries to get the starter out of bases-loaded, no outs jams in the 6th innings of games (a personal managing pet peeve of mine).  Meanwhile Storen is a poster child for our team’s player development and drafting, having signed quickly and risen through the minors to nearly become the first player of his draft class to debut in the majors.

For me though, both Clippard and Storen have one other overriding factor; their contract status.  They’re both pre-arbitration guys with lots of years of team control still to come.  The absolute best asset in all of baseball is the pre-arbitration pitcher, so i’d have to think this team would need to be completely overblown by a trade offer to consider moving either guy.  We control Tyler Clippard THROUGH 2015, Storen even longer.  Even with four arbitration years coming Clippard is going to be vastly underpaid as compared to what he’s worth on the open market.

We all know there are certain players that are “un-tradeable.”  Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper, Danny Espinosa, Steven Strasburg are names that come to mind on this team.  So if some offer came in for Clippard and Storen that was just unbelievable we’d have to consider it of course.  But should we be shopping these guys?  Absolutely not.

7 Responses to 'Why is Tyler Clippard appearing in Trade Rumors?'

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  1. Here I was, thinking that you were on vacation and didn’t send a postcard.

    This year there is an oversupply of right handed relievers on the market. That means the Nats are just not going to get much in return for their bullpen pieces.
    With starters, they just have to trade Marquis, Wang’s coming and we need to see how Milone and others can do in the show.

    Mark L

    22 Jul 11 at 8:54 am

  2. Relievers are always a gamble one year they are good and the next year they cannot find the strike zone….Sean Burnett and Matt Capps for example! Unless the reliever is named Mariano Rivera you can always move them. I advocate trading Clippard, not that I don’t like him he is great but he could bring so much in return for the future. Storen if the deal was right but I would lean against it.


    22 Jul 11 at 9:45 am

  3. Its tough to keep up, especially when you can’t spare time before or after your normal working hours and you’re tied up in the evenings. I’m in a place right now hwere I can spare a few minutes here or there, but not much else. Agree; we must trade Marquis to make room for Wang. I’d like to see Livan moved as well, to make room for Detwiler. I’m guessing if both these moves happen we’ll call up Milone when Zimmermann reaches innings limits. Move Coffey if you can and bring up either Mandel or Wilkie.

    Todd Boss

    22 Jul 11 at 10:00 am

  4. True true. But to me Clippard is more to this bullpen than just another reliever. As you say, if we get something fantastic in return then yeah go for it. But 4 more years of arb control means a lot.

    Todd Boss

    22 Jul 11 at 10:01 am

  5. Trading Livan seems a mistake to me; he’s more valuable to the Nats than anybody else. When he’s on he’s enormously entertaining to watch and is a real fan favorite. Plus he’s very inexpensive.

    Mark L

    22 Jul 11 at 10:49 am

  6. I’m conflicted about Livan; i’ve got a post coming up about this specific point and make mention of these very points.

    Todd Boss

    23 Jul 11 at 3:59 pm

  7. […] Clippard: I posted on the topic of Clippard’s name appearing in trade rumors earlier this week.  My arguments are there in greater detail; we should only move him if […]

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