On Wednesday night, the Nationals announced that they traded 8th-inning set-up man Tyler Clippard to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for Yunel Escobar. Escobar is a short stop who will probably become the Nationals’ second baseman.
Clippard is a fan favorite and probably one of the best late innings relievers in baseball now. He was the Nationals’ only representative at the 2014 All Star Game, and had the fan’s choice bobblehead in 2014 too.
While losing Clippard in their ‘pen in 2015, this may be a good trade for Washington. Here’s why. Clippard would have been paid $9 million this year and will become a free agent at the end of next season. With the trade, they get a starting infielder whose contract doesn’t expire until after the 2017 season. That’s trading 1 year of Clippard for at least 3 years of Escobar. Also, if the Nationals either trade Ian Desmond or lose him to free agency when his contract is up next year, they have some flexibility at that position. They also will have Trea Turner from the Souza deal, Danny Espinosa, Kevin Frandsen, prospect Wilmer Difo, and Dan Uggla, who can all play the middle infield positions. My guess is that Desmond will stay for at least the first half of this year (maybe he would get traded for a prospect at the trade deadline to a team that thinks it needs a short stop to contend) and Escobar will be the starter at second. The A’s only get a year of Clippard, but maybe Billy Beane thinks he’ll be to re-sign him at the end of the year. Or maybe it’s what Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post said:
It would be such a Billy Beane move to make Clippard the closer, get him 35-40 saves, qualify him and get a draft pick.
— Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) January 15, 2015
The biggest question for me now is who are the Nationals’ late inning relievers. I think Drew Storen will be the closer, but maybe it will be Heath Bell, who they signed to a minor league deal this offseason. Remember, since October, the Nationals have lost Rafael Soriano, Ross Detwiler, Ryan Mattheus, and now Clippard from their bullpen.
Was Escobar my first choice for the Nats second baseman? No. If the Nats were going to get a new player I would have picked Ben Zobrist. I also thought would be a good choice would be Brandon Hicks. I gave this opinion in an interview with Red Porch Report in December.
As much as we welcome Yunel to DC, you really have to think about what Tyler Clippard has done for our city. He is a great guy, an All-Star, and a person that we will always remember him in the Nationals history books. Good luck in OAK, Tyler!