Tag: Tyler Clippard

Tyler Clippard to Yankees: Latest Trade Details, Comments and Reaction

The New York Yankees are remaking their bullpen prior to Monday’s non-waiver trade deadline, acquiring right-hander Tyler Clippard from the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday.

MLB Network’s Jon Heyman first reported the deal. Joel Sherman of the New York Post noted Clippard, under contract through next season, will serve as the seventh-inning setup man for the Yankees, with Adam Warren and a slate of young arms such as Luis Severino, Chad Green and Brian Mitchell bridging the eighth inning to Dellin Betances in the ninth.

The acquisition of Clippard is an interesting one for New York, which is in sell mode for the first time in decades.

The Yankees traded Aroldis Chapman to the Chicago Cubs on Monday, and Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported Sunday that New York dealt Andrew Miller to the Cleveland Indians.

Clippard has struggled this season in Arizona. He has a 4.30 ERA, which would be his worst mark in a full season, and he’s allowed seven home runs in 37.2 innings.

The 31-year-old is still missing bats with 46 strikeouts, but the key for him to succeed will be keeping the ball in the park. Left-handed hitters have tattooed him for a .534 slugging percentage in 2016, per Baseball-Reference.com.

The Diamondbacks, who are 43-61 and in last place in the National League West, had no reason to keep Clippard. They also perhaps wanted to dump his $6 million-plus yearly salary.

The Yankees are in an awkward position because they are 52-51 but also loaded with aging players—such as Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia—who likely can’t be moved because they are owed too much money.

It’s a credit to New York general manager Brian Cashman that the club reaped solid returns in the deals for Chapman and Miller. Clippard isn’t going to turn the Bronx Bombers’ fortunes around, but he will provide a veteran relief presence.

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Tyler Clippard to Diamondbacks: Latest Contract Details, Comments, Reaction

For the third time in just over one year, Tyler Clippard is on the move after agreeing to a deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday.

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports first reported that Clippard signed a contract worth $12.25 million over two years, which MLB Network’s Jon Heyman supported. Rosenthal added that the deal includes a $4 million signing bonus, a $4.1 million salary in 2016 and a $4.15 million salary the following season.

The team went on to confirm the move.

Jack Magruder of FanRag Sports added that Clippard will serve as the setup man to closer Brad Ziegler.

Clippard was traded to the Oakland Athletics in January 2015, pitching 37 games before being traded to the New York Mets prior to the July 31 deadline. He had a successful season overall, posting a 2.92 ERA with 64 strikeouts, 49 hits allowed and 31 walks over 71 innings.

During the Mets’ playoff run to the World Series, Clippard did show signs of fatigue, with a 6.75 ERA over 6.2 innings. 

Given New York’s depth in the starting rotation, along with more pressing needs in the outfield and second base when the offseason started, he seemed like an expendable piece.

Early in the offseason, one executive was confident that Clippard would get a good deal, per ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick:

It’s a reasonable assessment because even in a down year, he had his third straight season with an ERA under 3.00 and sixth straight season with at least 70 innings pitched.

Relievers are naturally volatile, so finding one who is dependable with a long track record of health is going to generate a lot of interest from teams.

Crasnick referred to another reason the Diamondbacks should be eager to welcome Clippard into the fold: He’s made 440 appearances since 2010, the most among MLB relievers.

Arizona was able to wait out the market for Clippard and add depth to its bullpen, which is often hard to find. The 30-year-old may not be the 85-90-inning hurler he was in 2010-11, but there are few relievers who can take the ball for one or two innings and provide better results. 

The Kansas City Royals have proved the last two years that teams can win with a dominant bullpen, so the Diamondbacks are certainly hoping to embark on a similar path to success by acquiring Clippard to help close out games.

Pitching was a clear weakness for Arizona in 2015. The team finished 25th in quality starts and 17th in team ERA at 4.04.

After landing a legitimate ace in Zack Greinke to headline the staff, the Diamondbacks did well to bolster their bullpen with Clippard coming aboard.


Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.

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Tyler Clippard, Diamondbacks Reportedly Agree on Contract

Free-agent relief pitcher Tyler Clippard and the Arizona Diamondbacks reportedly agreed on a two-year, $12.25 million contract, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.

Jack Magruder of Fox Sports reported on Saturday that the Diamondbacks and Clippard’s camp were having contract discussions. 

The 30-year-old right-hander split the 2015 season between the New York Mets and Oakland Athletics, registering 19 saves while striking out 64 batters and walking 31 in 71 innings pitched.

On Jan. 4, Diamondbacks general manager Dave Stewart said he would have liked to make a trade for a reliever, but since the price was too steep, Clippard was a viable option, via AZCentral’s Nick Piecoro.

“We have not talked to his people, (but) that is a good name,” Stewart said when asked about Clippard. “I know we talked about it internally, so I think there’s a pretty good possibility we will (reach out), at least just to see.”

Clippard spent 2007-14 with the Washington Nationals, mainly as a setup man. However, he did record 32 saves as the closer for the team in 2012. According to Baseball-Reference.com, Clippard has a career ERA+ of 138 and an impressive 1.089 WHIP.

It seemed likely that Stewart would make a big push, considering he didn’t see many good prospects on the horizon, according to Piecoro: “I think there’s probably only going to be a few options that will fit. I don’t see there being a bunch.”

Clippard has been a workhorse over his career, logging a 2.88 ERA in 562 innings, and has averaged nearly 75 innings the past seven years. He will most likely be a setup man again with Arizona, considering Brad Ziegler, who saved 30 games for the Diamondbacks last year, remains on the roster.

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Tyler Clippard: Latest News, Rumors, Speculation Surrounding Free-Agent RP

Pitcher Tyler Clippard is one of the hottest names on the free-agent market among relievers and is sure to have no shortage of interest from teams this winter.  

Continue for updates.

Mets, Several Teams Expressing Interest in Clippard

Tuesday, Dec. 15

According to Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com, the New York Mets “haven’t ruled out” bringing back Clippard, while the Minnesota Twins, Toronto Blue Jays and Los Angeles Dodgers are “seeking relief help” and could be in pursuit of the pitcher.

As Crasnick noted, however, the fact that Clippard remains unsigned to this point is a bit curious:

That workload appeared to take some juice off of his fastball, and Clippard had some struggles down the stretch. He also struggled to command his changeup at points, as John Harper of the New York Daily News pointed out:

Still, in a weak pool of relievers, Clippard will find a home.

“Considering the terrible contracts being given to relievers, he’ll get his money,” one anonymous executive told Crasnick. “He’s too good not to.”

Clippard, 30, finished 5-4 with a 2.92 ERA, a 1.13 WHIP, 19 saves and 64 strikeouts in 2015. He was solid overall for the Mets after being acquired from the Oakland Athletics in July, settling into the setup man role in the eighth inning. 

His versatility is a major plus for prospective teams, as Clippard can serve as the closer if called upon to do so, as he did in Oakland. He is arguably the top reliever left on the market and would certainly be a major contributor to a contending team looking to shore up the late innings.


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World Series 2015: Pitchers with Most Pivotal Roles in Mets vs. Royals

If pitching truly wins championships, congratulations to the New York Mets on their 2015 World Series title.

The Mets finished the season No. 4 in team ERA (3.45), an edge that carried over into October. Through nine postseason bouts, they sport a 2.81 ERA, accumulating 91 strikeouts through 80 innings.

Despite their bullpen’s best efforts, the Royals have allowed 4.3 runs per playoff game against tough offenses. A flimsy starting staff remains their biggest flaw, entering the World Series with a 5.56 postseason ERA and 4.75 walks per nine innings.

Of course, anything can happen in a best-of-seven series. A Mets rotation with two rookies and two former Tommy John surgery recipients could finally succumb to fatigue while the Royals’ erratic starters keep cleaning up their messes with runners in scoring position. Or maybe the National League champions jump out to early leads before the American League representatives can fully utilize their prolific bullpen.

Keep an eye on these hurlers during the Fall Classic.



Noah Syndergaard, SP

Per MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, Mets manager Terry Collins confirmed his World Series rotation:

This order sets up Noah Syndergaard to start at Citi Field, where the 23-year-old rookie has notched a 2.41 ERA through 13 starts. This is hardly a demotion for Thor, as the hard-throwing newcomer would be available to pitch a potential Game 7. 

Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey receive more attention atop New York’s stellar rotation, but Syndergaard may prove the best of the trio down the road. After concluding the season with a 3.24 ERA and 9.96 strikeouts per nine innings, he has amassed 20 punchouts through 13 postseason innings, frequently reaching 100 on the radar gun.

As he told Newsday‘s Marc Carig during their pennant celebration, this group is going to be a force for a while:

The pure power hurler will clash against an aggressive offense that rarely strikes out. Although the Royals have succeeded against high heat, there’s a huge difference between 95 and 100 miles per hour.


Tyler Clippard, RP

There’s a security breach in New York’s stellar pitching staff. If the Royals can force the starters out before bridging to closer Jeurys Familia, Mets fans everywhere will leave the series with damaged fingernails. 

Tyler Clippard is a disaster waiting to happen. According to FanGraphs, a 5.30 expected fielding independent pitching (FIP) and 60.6 fly-ball percentage muddy a 2.92 ERA. Since Sept. 1, he has relinquished 13 runs, including five homers, through 18.1 frames.

For New York’s sake, let’s hope he got the regression out of his system during Game 4 of the National League Championship Series. Kris Bryant clobbered a hanging changeup in the eighth inning, but the two-run homer merely lessened the lead to five. As Collins’ preferred setup man to Familia, Clippard usually pitches in more high-leverage situations.

The Mets don’t have a conventional southpaw specialist, but the right-handed Clippard would help against left-handed hitters. Lefties hold a career .179/.265/.307 slash line against the 30-year-old reliever. Those splits could come in handy against Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Alex Gordon.



Johnny Cueto, SP

In two drastically different starts, Johnny Cueto went from allowing two hits in eight innings to eight runs through two innings. The great outing led Kansas City past the Houston Astros, but the debacle cost the team an 11-8 shootout against Toronto. 

According to ESPN Stats & Info, the letdown performance set a dubious record:

When the Royals acquired Cueto from the Cincinnati Reds in July, they hoped to gain an ace to lead their October rotation. He sunk any such confidence before the season ended, registering a 4.76 ERA and 1.45 WHIP for his new organization. 

Yost has not set his World Series rotation, but he may prefer Yordano Ventura and/or Edinson Volquez to open the series. Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star wondered if Cueto‘s catastrophe at Rogers Centre will cause the Royals to use him at home in Game 1 or Game 2:

Citi Field is not the same treacherous hitters’ park, but the Mets are no cupcake matchup. If the good, or at least decent, Cueto doesn’t show up, the Royals are in trouble.


Kelvin Herrera, RP

Wade Davis’ promotion to closer has derailed his overall worth. If Greg Holland were still around, manager Ned Yost would have certainly used his current stopper more than twice in the American League Championship Series. He also wouldn’t have waited for Ryan Madson to blow a 3-1 lead before reluctantly using Davis (gasps) outside of the ninth inning in Game 6.

Unless Yost alters his bullpen usage, Kelvin Herrera becomes the club’s most vital reliever. Free from the foolish save shackles, the middle reliever has appeared in eight of Kansas City’s 11 playoff bouts. He has shined through them all, allowing seven baserunners with 16 strikeouts through 8.2 innings.

As noted by Beyond the Box Score, he’s the only pitcher generating a higher whiff rate than New York’s power starters this postseason:

His playoff success is a huge relief for the Royals, as he limped out of the season with 10 runs relinquished over his last 14.1 innings. For the second straight year, he’s the guy Yost comfortably turns to in high-leverage spots. Given Kansas City’s tumultuous rotation, Herrera and the bullpen have no margin for error.

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Why Trading Yunel Escobar Was the Oakland Athletics’ Best Move of the Offseason

Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane has had the busiest offseason of any GM, making nine trades involving 27 players in total. His most recent deal, swapping shortstop Yunel Escobar for Washington Nationals relief pitcher Tyler Clippard, was his best one of the winter.

Beane acquired Escobar and utility man Ben Zobrist from the Tampa Bay Rays for catcher John Jaso and prospects Daniel Robertson and Boog Powell on January 10.

The Athletics needed someone to fill in at short after allowing Jed Lowrie to walk, and they got their man from Tampa Bay. But it was Zobrist, not Escobar, as he was flipped to the Nationals for Clippard four days later.

Shortstop is arguably the weakest offensive position in the league, and Escobar has long enjoyed a reputation as an above-average hitter. His best season came with the Atlanta Braves in 2009, when he hit .299/.377/.436.

The problem is, he hasn’t hit at such a high level since 2011. His OPS has fallen under .700 in each of the last three seasons, and he’s only hit double-digit home runs in three of his eight major league seasons.

Middle infielders don’t often carry a lot of power, so Escobar‘s waning power isn’t a deal-breaker on its own. But his 31 career stolen bases are surprisingly low for such a tenured shortstop, and if he’s not a threat in the batter’s box or on the basepaths, where is he a threat?

The answer: he’s a threat in the field—for his own team.

Defensive regression is natural for an aging shortstop, and Escobar is 32. Many players’ arm strength and/or agility starts disappearing around then.

Escobar was actually a good defensive player as recently as 2013, when he posted a 10.7 Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), more than double his previous career high and third in the majors among everyday shortstops, per Fangraphs. For comparison, Lowrie had a -6.7 UZR that season, third-worst in the majors for his position.

But Escobar‘s UZR shot down to an abysmal -17.0 in 2014, worst among starting shortstops by a wide margin. His range has all but disappeared, and the Nationals are expected to play him at second base, as the A’s would have.

In fact, Escobar‘s UZR over 150 games (UZR/150) in 2014 was the worst by a shortstop since Fangraphs began keeping track of the stat (h/t Athletics Nation’s Jeremy F. Koo).

Escobar never wanted to play for the A’s, and he would have been a horrible fit in Oakland. The A’s weren’t going to win over Bay Area fans by employing a middle infielder who once wrote an anti-gay slur into his eye black.

After the A’s claimed Escobar on waivers last August, his agent, Alex Esteban, told CBS’ Jon Heyman he was “very concerned” with Oakland’s selection. Tampa Bay pulled Escobar back from waivers after Esteban continued to drop hints about Escobar‘s aversion for suiting up in Oakland.

Clippard, on the other hand, shows no signs of fitting in poorly for the A’s. The Washington Post‘s James Wagner called himan earnest, thoughtful and funny teammate, who was always accountable—good or bad—for his performances and the teams’s performance.”

He has been named to two All-Star Games despite functioning as a set-up man—not a closer—for most of his career. With a 2.68 ERA in just over six years with the Nationals, he’s been one of the most consistent relief options in baseball throughout his career.

Clippard was the Nats closer in 2012 and has the stuff to end for the A’s—which he may be expected to do after Sean Doolittle’s slight rotator cuff tear.

 Oakland acquired a similarly steady relief arm last season in Luke Gregerson, who turned in a 2.12 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in his one season with the A’s. Clippard is more of a power arm than Gregerson, but he should be just as good in an eighth-inning set-up role once Doolittle returns.

The A’s are flush with back-of-the-rotation starters, some of whom may turn into bullpen guys. They don’t actually have too many true right-handed relievers like Clippard, though, so he and Ryan Cook will be counted on as dependable late-inning arms.

Fans have bemoaned Beane‘s trading of five of the A’s seven 2014 All-Stars, but Clippard appeared in last year’s Midsummer Classic for the National League team. Oakland flipped an old, defenseless middle infielder with little pop for a shutdown bullpen arm.


Trade information courtesy of Athletics Nation. Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com, unless noted otherwise.

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MLB Trade Rumors: Buzz Surrounding David Price, Blue Jays’ Next Move

Most of the offseason’s biggest trades come prior to the flipping of the calendar, but there could still be a blockbuster or two in the works as the MLB offseason continues on through January.

Despite the calm associated with the holidays, there are still a few MLB trade rumors to analyze. The rumor mill is done churning out bit after bit like it did during the winter meetings. That said, the buzz that comes out now can still have an impact.

Take the recent string of rumors, for example. They can have a major impact on the rest of the league if they come to fruition. Find out more about them below.


David Price

Acquired at last year’s trade deadline to aid the playoff push of the Detroit Tigers, left-handed ace David Price shouldn’t get too comfortable in the Motor City this winter.

Tweets from Fox Sports’ Jon Morosi on Sunday evening suggest that Price could be dealt yet again in order for the team to re-sign free agent Max Scherzer:

A free agent after the season, Price was just OK for the Tigers. He was 4-4 in 11 starts with a 3.59 ERA, though his 2.44 FIP suggests that he was actually a bit better, per Baseball-Reference.com. Price also lost his only start of the playoffs, although it was a successful outing (two earned runs in eight innings against the Baltimore Orioles).

It seems strange that the Tigers would consider trading Price so quickly, but it makes a lot of sense when you consider that he is only under contract for another season. Moving him now to re-sign Scherzer would guarantee that the team at least gets to keep one of its starters.

Detroit can’t afford to let Scherzer walk and then risk Price walking as well at the end of the season. The team needs at least one of them in the fold to be successful, especially if Justin Verlander doesn’t bounce back in 2015.

In an ideal world, the Tigers would be able to both re-sign Scherzer and keep Price next season. By not giving Price an extension now, that would free up the necessary funds to ink the right-hander.

Scherzer‘s market has been slow to develop, despite him being head-and-shoulders the best pitcher left on the market. It could take a major move for the dominoes to start falling.

Trading Price qualifies as a major move.

Not that many teams would have the necessary prospects to get something done. The Boston Red Sox, Miami Marlins and Chicago Cubs do, so they would likely be players.

Of course, we know that Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski generally seeks major leaguers in trades who can help immediately. Even fewer teams can supply enough of that talent to pique his interest.

Detroit is completely in the driver’s seat with Price. There’s no immediate need to deal the ace. Locking him up to a long-term extension comes down to a matter of preference—it’s Scherzer or Price.


Toronto Blue Jays

In the midst of a busy offseason that has seen the Toronto Blue Jays acquire Josh Donaldson, Russell Martin and Michael Saunders to boost the lineup, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets that the organization will now shift all of its attention to the vacancy at the back end of the bullpen:

Casey Janssen closed games last year, saving 25 of 30 ballgames. He’s a free agent, though.

It makes sense that the Blue Jays could look to pass on him given the value of other relievers like Andrew Miller and David Robertson. They locked down massive contracts. Janssen would likely fetch half their value, but that’s still a lot for a reliever who is merely average.

That’s why it makes sense to approach other organizations with a wealth of relievers. Two teams come to mind immediately—the Kansas City Royals and Washington Nationals.

The 2014 postseason proved to the nation that the Royals have a plethora of incredible arms finishing off games. The unit was headlined by Greg Holland, who has been one of the best closers in baseball the past three seasons.

Despite K.C.’s success with the current formula, Fox Sports’ CJ Nitkowski thinks the team must trade its closer this offseason:

One of those players who should be on the move is closer Greg Holland. Holland has been magnificent in his Royals career, particularly in the last two seasons. In those 144 games, post season included, Holland has posted a 1.28 ERA, earned 100 saves, and struck out 208 batters in 140 innings. Incredible numbers.


In a a trade, the return of a well-regarded prospect or two is likely. He has an incredible streak of 151 straight games of throwing one inning or less. The Royals aren’t a team that should pay $8 million for that kind of reliever.

Toronto has prospects that could pique Kansas City’s interest.

The Nationals are a more likely trade partner because the target, Tyler Clippard, won’t come with the value of a closer. He has the pedigree to possibly blossom into a shutdown closer, but the Nationals have yet to show the willingness to entrust him with the job.

He’ll likely pitch the eighth inning in Washington in 2015, but GM Mike Rizzo hasn’t ruled out trading him (or any of his players) just yet, via James Wagner of The Washington Post: “We’ll listen to any deal for any player we got. If it’s the right deal, increases productivity and helps the ballclub, we’re all in.”

Clippard is exactly the type of pitcher Toronto must target. He’s cheap given his lack of recent closing experience (just one save the past two seasons), and if he pans out, the team can look to re-sign him following the season.


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Reassessing Washington Nationals’ Offseason Plan and Breaking Down What’s Next

The Washington Nationals have been decidedly quiet so far this offseason. But with more than two months down and just one trade in the books, it feels like the dominoes are about to begin tumbling down in D.C.

The Nats have a relatively short to-do list this winter—add some depth in the bullpen and the infield and decide the future of some soon-to-be free agents. But now that the winter meetings are over and some of the biggest free agents are off the market, it could be Washington’s turn to have a go at the hot stove. 

“Different moves beget other moves,” general manager Mike Rizzo said at the winter meetings. “It’s a very fluid situation. When one move is made, there’s usually a reciprocal move that falls into place.”

The only deal the Nationals have made thus far is the trade that sent left-handed pitcher Ross Detwiler to the Texas Rangers. But that move could be the catalyst that helps bring some clarity to Washington’s bullpen.

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported earlier this month the Nationals were “likely” to trade late-inning stalwart Tyler Clippard. With the departure of Detwiler and some of this offseason’s biggest free-agent relievers now off the board—David Robertson latched on with the Chicago White Sox and Luke Gregerson signed with the Houston AstrosClippard could now be poised to remain in Washington.

Righty Drew Storen is set to begin this upcoming season as the Nats closer, a role that he earned after putting up 10 saves in Washington’s last 11 games of 2014. But Storen‘s production suffered a severe drop-off in Washington’s one postseason series. The 27-year-old registered a 6.75 ERA and one blown save in two appearances against the San Francisco Giants

Clippard will be a necessary safety net in the event Storen struggles, and MASNsports.com’s Brian Eller reports Clippard could even compete for the closer role before the onset of the 2015 season.

It can’t just be one guy in the ninth that’s going to make a good team or a good bullpen. So, I have perspective on that,” Clippard told reporters Saturday at the team’s annual fan fest. “Some of the innings that I pitched in the sixth and the seventh have been more important than some of those innings I was throwing in the ninth when I was a closer.”

Washington could make another move to add depth in the bullpen, but the unit should remain largely intact.

Now, the biggest mystery surrounding the Nationals this offseason remains their starting pitching. The contracts of both Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister are set to expire following the 2015 season, and it’s highly unlikely Washington lets that happen. 

In the case of both starting pitchers, the Nationals will either extend their contracts or, if a deal can’t be agreed upon, ship them off in a trade.

According to a report from The Washington Post‘s James Wagner, Rizzo reopened discussions with Zimmermann‘s agent during the winter meetings, but no such talks have started in Fister‘s case. 

“It was a re-acquaintance, if you will, to talk about philosophies and parameters and that type of thing,” Rizzo said. 

With Zimmermann in extension talks, the interest around him hasn’t cooled off at all. After MLB.com’s TR Sullivan reported last week that the Rangers inquired about the Nats starter, Rosenthal is now reporting the Boston Red Sox and “other clubs” have entered the mix.

Each passing day without a new contract for Zimmermann or Fister increases the chances that one or both leaves Washington in a trade. In that event, the Nationals will most likely use them as trade bait to shore up the middle of their infield.

In terms of immediate need, Washington’s most obvious weakness is at second base.

Looking ahead, shortstop Ian Desmond’s contract also expires in 2015. Without an extension for him, a versatile, young infielder that could moonlight at second and short becomes increasingly valuable for Washington. 

The Nationals came relatively close to a move that addressed that need, among others, when they engaged in talks with the Seattle Mariners recently. 

In the same report from Rosenthal, he said Washington proposed a trade that included “Zimmermann and Desmond for right-hander Taijuan Walker and shortstop Brad Miller.”

That’s how close the Nationals came to dealing two of their stars. But somewhere near the top of the rules of the baseball business is a warning to never let a valuable player’s contract expire without getting something in return.   

“I think you have to have a strategy and a plan to look long-term,” Rizzo told The Washington Post‘s Chelsea Janes. “We’re always about trying to win now in 2015 but we also have to have a global view towards the future. We don’t want to be just good for 2015 but good on a consistent basis.”

According to Rizzo and the general consensus, Washington is poised to make a run at the National League East title this season if the roster remains as is on Opening Day.

But with sustainable success in mind, it would be naive to think the Nationals will be quiet for the rest of the offseason. 


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Washinton Nationals: Week 2 in Review

Trips to Miami have been less than stellar for the Washington Nationals, and through the first two of a three-game set against the Marlins, nothing has changed.

The Nats blew leads on consecutive nights and were up against Florida ace Josh Johnson in the series finale. A Marlins’ sweep looked about as likely as Pudge Rodriguez hitting into a double play.

Somehow the Nats kept pace with the big hurler, driving up his pitch count (translation: striking out a bunch), and forcing him out of the game after 6 innings. And wouldn’t you know it, the Nats pulled it out in 11 on a two-run jack by Adam LaRoche. 

In any other year, the Nats lose that game in devastating fashion, and they lose about seven more in a row after. Things are different this year.

Will it result in 85 wins?


But you won’t see any of those 10-game losing streaks this year, and that’s a start.

Let’s get on with it…



The Nats did well to split their three games this week after dropping the first two. Tuesday, poor defense led to an extra-innings loss to the Fish. The Nats blew a four-run lead Wednesday, but came back to beat Florida in extras on Thursday. On Friday, Pudge came through with a two-RBI single to beat the Mets. New York came back Friday with a win to set up the rubber match Sunday, which the Nationals took in 11 innings.


Game of the Week

Thursday’s 5-3 win over the Marlins

As I mentioned above, if the Nationals lose this game, they go into a tail-spin.

The fact that they won on a day where Josh Johnson was starting, and the Marlins got out to a early two-run lead makes it all the better. Jayson Werth’s solo shot to cut the lead was huge, not only for Werth’s confidence—which has to be suffering after a tough start to the year—but also the Nationals season. Up to that point, the Nats had yet to get a hit off of Johnson, but that hit showed them they could score off the Cy Young contender.


Player of the Week

Tyler Clippard (4 G, 6.1 IP, 8 K, 1 H, 2 BB, 0.00 ERA)

Let’s ignore the fact that Jim Riggleman is running this guy into the ground already (6.1 innings in a week?) and just focus on how brilliant Clippard has been. Whenever the Nats need a strikeout, Clippard gets it. Without Clippard, I’m not sure the Nats win a game this week. He is easily the MVP of the team through two weeks.


Dud of the Week

Mike Morse (2-14, 2 BB, 2 RBI, 4 K)

I had high hopes for Morse coming into the season, as did every Nationals fan after his amazing performance in spring training, but it appears Morse left his swing in Viera. With Zimmerman facing a possible stint on the DL, it is imperative for Morse to find his swing and fast.


This Week on a Scale of 1 to 10

I’m giving the game this week an eight. Wins in Florida are not easy to come by for the Nats, and coming back after a disappointing loss Saturday to take the series in New York was huge for the team’s confidence going forward. And they’re going to need it with Zimmerman possibly out for a couple of weeks.


Random Diatribe of the Week

The Nationals bullpen has been a revelation in 2011. Unfortunately, they may not be around for much longer if they continue on this pace. Drew Storen and Clippard have combined to pitch 15 innings in only nine games.

The Nationals have to find another arm out of the pen they can trust. The Nationals can officially call up players they sent down to start the season on Sunday, which means Colin Balester, who pitched well enough to make the club out of camp, may be on the way.

Henry Rodriguez, who hit triple-digits on the gun last year with Oakland, pitched well in his minor league rehab assignment. Help may be on the way and the Nats need it.


NL East Power Rankings

1. Philadelphia Phillies

If the Phillies ever vacate this spot, I’d be surprised. The Phils overcame a six-run defeat at the hands of the Mets to reel off four out of five to end the week.

2. Atlanta Braves

They’re last in the standings, but that will happen when you play the Phillies. There’s no doubt, they’re No. 2 with a bullet

3. Washington Nationals

The Nats, Mets and Marlins have all played each other with each team coming out of it 3-3. The Nats go on top because they played every game on the road.

4. Florida Marlins

Hanley Ramirez has to start playing like a franchise player if the Marlins expect to flirt with 80 wins.

5. New York Mets

A promising start to the week went up in flames as the Mets lost four out of their last five to end the week.


Up next for the Nats: Jayson Werth and the Nats get their first crack at the Phillies before the Marlins come to DC for the weekend.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Washington Nationals: A Walk and Talk With Nats Potential Closer Drew Storen

If the good Lord picked one weather day to represent spring training for every baseball team spread out over Florida and Arizona, he would have chosen today.

With clear blue skies and temperatures hovering around 80 degrees, the Washington Nationals picked up the pace on the fourth day of workouts for pitchers and catchers.

Yesterday’s big story was no doubt Stephen Strasburg’s pain free throwing session.

Strasburg had Tommy John surgery at the end of last season and the Nationals are in no hurry to rush the pitching phenom back any time soon.

The talk around camp today was the impending arrival of another ready made MLB phenom, outfielder Bryce Harper.

Harper is due to report on Sunday when the rest of the positional players report.

Strasburg and his battery mates worked on the fundamentals of the game like covering first base and they even did some situational bunting.

Of course, there was also lots of running and stretching. Strasburg did no throwing today.

The Nationals spring training facility is located in Viera, Fla. The team reports to Space Coast Stadium each morning and then walks the quarter mile to the four beautifully groomed and perfectly greened practice fields, which surround the stadium.

Upon seeing the walk by the players today, I came up with the name for my diary segment that will include player’s interviews, “the walk and talk with…”

Today I was fortunate enough to meet and interview a fantastic young personality in the Nats bullpen.

His refreshing attitude on playing the game of baseball really made me feel as though the future of Americas Past Time is in safe hands. 

Today’s walk and talk is with pitcher Drew Storen.

Nats Manager Jim Riggleman has called Storen the closer of the future in DC.

Storen had quite a whirlwind of a year in 2010. Aside from turning just 23 last August, Drew was promoted from the AAA Syracuse Chiefs to the Nationals on April-30.

In the span of six days, Storen accomplished a lot for a young major league relief pitcher. He debuted in the show May 17 against the St. Louis Cardinals.

In three batters faced, Storen collected two outs, with Matt Holliday becoming his first MLB strikeout, as well as hitting his first batter, Ryan Ludwick.

Working two-thirds of an inning two days later, Storen would collect his first major league win against the NY Mets.

Four days later in an inter-league game against the Orioles, Storen smacked his first big league hit, a line drive to left center field off Kevin Millwood.

Storen is a born closer.

He was one of college baseball’s premier closers during a stellar two-year collegiate career at Stanford University. He was a first team All-Pac-10 selection following each of his two seasons in a Cardinal uniform (2008 and ’09) and he led Stanford in both wins and saves in 2009, becoming the first Cardinal pitcher since Jeff Ballard in 1984 to accomplish the feat.

Originally drafted by the Yankees in 2007, Storen did not sign so that he could attend Stanford.

After selecting pitching phenom Steven Strasburg with the number one overall pick in 2009, the Nationals drafted Storen, a native of Brownsburg, IN, nine spots later, making him the tenth overall pick.

The Nationals added a little more to Storen’s whirlwind year when, on Jul. 30, they traded his good friend and their saves leader, Matt Capps, to the Minnesota Twins at the trade deadline.

Capps was leading the Nats with 26 saves at the time of the trade and was the winning pitcher for the National league in the All-Star game.

Storen has said on numerous occasions that Capps had a big part in his success last season, taking him under his wing after the two met at the Nationals Fan fest last February.

Eight days following the Capps trade, Storen knew his time was coming to collect his first major league save.

He figured it would probably come in L.A on the road and he was right.

“I kept sitting out there (in the bullpen) knowing that the call was coming,” Storen said. “When the call came I was so pumped up and excited that I don’t even remember who I got out, I think I got Belliard to end it.”

It was Bellliard he got out to end it.

Belliard pinch it for Brad Ausmus and grounded out to Adam Dunn to end the game.

Storen would go onto to record four more saves last season with a 3.58 ERA in 54 appearances. He would boast a record of 4-4 with 52 strikeouts in just 55.1 innings pitched.

“I had closed at Stanford and was pretty good but this was like nothing I had ever prepared for, I was so happy when I got that first one (save)”. Storen said. “I was nervous and excited all at once, it was all like a big blur.”

He ended the year 4-4 with a 3.58 ERA.

When I asked him if Nats Manager Jim Riggleman had sat with him to discuss expectations he said: “Not really, I know what I have to do and I don’t really feel like that I have actually won the job yet. There are some guys here that are capable and I just have to go out there and do what I know how to do”.

The scouting report on Storen is that he defiantly has a closers mentality.

He does not get rattled and is intensely competitive; giving him the perfect closer’s makeup.

He has a devastating slider and a mid 90s fastball. 

Storen developed a changeup during the fall two seasons ago where he worked as a starter to further enhance all three pitches, as he throws a lot of strikes and attacks the hitter.

When asked about the veteran leadership the Nats acquired in the off-season by signing free agents like Jason Werth and Adam Laroche, he simply replied: “I’m excited, the leadership these guys bring is important to me, as a young guy I just love the experience a guy like (Jason) Werth comes with.

“I am constantly trying to learn and these guys are great teachers.”

On the great fortune of throwing to a future hall of fame catcher in Ivan Rodriguez,

“It’s like I cheat because I have a guy like that back there, he knows the hitters so well, you know he’s going to know how to throw a guy, and how to approach a guy,” Storen said. “I don’t really have to do a lot of thinking out there.”

The closers job is not guaranteed and Storen knows this, manager Jim Riggleman said numerous times this off-season that the closer role was up for grabs.

Several other good arms have a shot to emerge.

Sean Burnett and Tyler Clippard provide Riggleman with a great lefty-right option in the seventh and eighth innings. Both were very good last almost unhittable at times.

Todd Coffey is the workhorse in the pen but he will also get a chance to pitch late this spring.

Storen’s biggest competition may be Henry Rodriguez.

In just his second year as a full-time reliever, Rodriguez went 1-0 with a 4.55 ERA in 29 appearances with the Athletics. He had 33 strikeouts in a little less than 28 innings of work.

If all goes well here in Viera, Riggleman may elect to have the competition continue up north by using a bullpen by committee approach.

Closer or bullpen by committee is not uncommon to start a season.

This approach is smart with young arms, especially when the weather has yet to turn warm. When you are thinking long term for a 162 game schedule, it just makes sense.

Storen is fine with whatever Riggleman decides as he stated on several occasions to me that he knows what he has to do and he is ready to do it.

“I look forward to the battles this spring. I welcome them”, Storen said.

“If Storen is the closer by March 31st, we would certainly welcome that, but we are not going to force that to happen,” Riggleman told Nationals.com. “If he is pitching in the eighth, or if he gets an out in the seventh and then we need Burnett and Clippard to pitch the ninth, that’s fine. Winning the game is more important than who gets the save.”

The best thing about baseball and especially baseball in- February -in Florida is tomorrow is another day.

Check back to see whom I can grab for tomorrow’s walk and talk.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

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