Quick thoughts on the Tyler Clippard for Yunel Escobar deal that went down Wednesday night.
- Bummed to see Clippard go. I got a chance to play golf with him a few years back and he’s a real nice guy. Nothing but a gentleman on the course, just a guy who liked playing golf in his spare time. The thing that made me laugh the most from the game was his telling us that he rides his bike to the ball park every night … and then back home at midnight, through some rather sketchy streets around the stadium, all the way back to the townhouse he shared with Drew Storen on capitol hill. If you’ve never been to Oakland’s stadium … well lets say I hope Clippard doesn’t try to ride his bike home at night from there.
- Does Clippard get a shot at the closer role in Oakland? Probably not; Sean Doolittle took over for the deposed Jim Johnson last year and did pretty well. Very well actually: a 0.7 whip and a 1.71 FIP. Not bad.
- I tend to agree with the Mike Axisa CBSsports.com analysis posted here; Nats have some interesting flexibility now with Escobar. He could be the 2B starter (making the transition from SS to 2B is an easy one for a quality infielder). He could enable the team to move Ian Desmond and have Escobar be the starting shortstop until Trea Turner is ready (or proves himself not to be up to the task … Escobar is signed through 2016 with an easy 2017 option).
Is this a good trade for the Nationals? Clippard was a vital and valuable part of the bullpen; is he replaceable? Not easily. The Nats have shed two of their three best relievers from last year with no real replacements (no, i’m not counting Heath Bell) other than internal promotions. Perhaps this means we’ll see a couple of middle relief veteran signings now. I think this also could mean Blake Treinen‘s being called into reliever duty instead of being in the Syracuse rotation. Who pitches the 8th inning now? Aaron Barrett?
Even given Clippard’s value, his escalating salary did mean he made more sense as a closer for another team. Maybe that happens in Oakland regardless. Or maybe Billy Beane keeps on dealing and moves Clippard again. But the Nats plugged a hole for now and potentially for the next two years as well; a price that had to be paid for what they acquired. And lets be honest; it is probably easier to find a good right handed reliever than it is to find a MLB-average offensive shortstop.
Escobar’s offensive numbers were a tick below MLB average last year; an improvement over the presumed person he’s deposing in Danny Espinosa. What’s more of an unknown is his defense; he was excellent in 2013, awful in 2014 in terms of range factors. Since you don’t need nearly the range at 2nd, i’m guessing he’s going to be an excellent defender there by default. So to this effect, he fits the Rizzo mold. Good defender, decent offensive player.
The knock on Escobar, of course, is character. It stems from an incident in 2009 while with Toronto when he put the words “Tu ere maricon” on his eyeblack. As I noted in the comments section, I tend to give him the benefit of the doubt here, believing that the media took one of many possible interpretations of this common latin insult (and hopefully not the one he meant) and ran with it … suddenly the message and the story that remains to this day is that he used an “anti-gay slur” and that Escobar is “homophobic.” Or perhaps not: according to a wikipedia guide of Spanish profanity, the term maricon as used by Cubans in particular most likely means exactly what he’s accused of saying. I dunno; what’s the statue of limitations for making a poor decision?