On Monday afternoon, the Washington Nationals and Tyler Clippard agreed to a one-year deal worth $5.875 million to avoid arbitration. While that was more than the $5.4 million mid-point, Clippard will be well worth his salary in 2014.
While the rest of the bullpen struggled in 2013, Clippard did not. He stayed strong and true all season long. Whenever former manager Davey Johnson needed to go to the ‘pen, pulling out Clippard was usually a pretty safe move.
In 71 innings of work, the right-reliever posted a 2.41 ERA and even won six games. He also struck out 73 batters while walking just 24. He held opposing hitters to a staggering .135 batting average and was lights out whenever he took the mound.
Whenever players and teams go into contract negotiations, they are debating what a player should make based on past performances as well how they could possibly perform in the future. When you look at his history with the Nats, he boasts a solid resume. In four seasons in which he’s pitched 60 innings or more, his worst ERA was 3.72 in 2012. However, Clippard also saved 32 games in 2012 so he’s a dual-threat reliever, so to speak.
In 2011, Clippard put together the best season of his career. In 88.1 innings of work, he posted a 1.83 ERA with 104 strikeouts en route to his first and only All-Star Game appearance. Can we expect to see a similar season this year? Perhaps not. Clippard will be turning 29 this February, so I think it’s unfair to expect another season like that.
However, an effort similar to 2013 is more than doable for the pitcher entering his eighth year in MLB. He rebounded well from his below-average 2012 season and pitched very strong in a weak bullpen. Clippard is the leading righty, but he’s more than ready for that pressure. If Ryan Mattheus can stay healthy, he’ll be able to take some of the workload off Clippard when Matt Williams wants a right-hander.
I mentioned earlier that Clippard is a dual-threat reliever. Let’s say that Rafael Soriano’s game takes a turn for the worse this season. Clippard has experience at closer and could certainly take over that role. He can either play a setup role or a closing role which is a definite luxury for Washington.
While you can say that the Nationals “lost” in this contract negotiation, I don’t think either side really is the loser. The Nationals bring back one of the game’s best relievers and he gets a payday that he’s owed. This is a good deal for all involved, and now they are officially ready to head to Florida to begin Spring Training.