Tyler Clippard Rumors

Players Avoiding Arbitration: Tuesday

Dozens of arbitration eligible players have agreed to deals with their respective teams today and we've been tracking all of the developments right here.  Several teams, including the Rays, Nationals, Marlins, White Sox, Blue Jays, Braves, and perhaps Astros, are known for committing to going to hearings if they get to the point of filing.  Keep track of all the madness with MLBTR's arbitration tracker, which shows settlement amounts, filing figures, and midpoints.  Today's players to avoid arbitration on deals worth less than $4MM:

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Extension Candidate: Tyler Clippard

Icon_6756808The Washington Nationals are clearly a team on the rise, combining a young rotation (Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez) with an improving offense (Ryan Zimmerman, Mike Morse, Danny Espinosa, Wilson Ramos, eventually Bryce Harper) and a solid bullpen. Part of that bullpen is setup man Tyler Clippard, who's been one of the game's best relievers since the Nats moved him to the bullpen full-time in 2009.

Clippard, 27 in February, was acquired from the Yankees for Jonathan Albaladejo in December 2007. A starting pitcher with just a half-dozen big league starts to his credit at the time of the trade, the Nats kept the right-hander in Triple-A for the majority of the 2008 season. He struggled, pitching to a 4.77 ERA with 7.9 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9 in 143 minor league innings that year, making a pair of unspectacular spot starts for Washington in June. The Nationals moved him to the bullpen full-time in 2009, and after a 24-game trial in the minors, he was called up in late-June and has been a bullpen force ever since.

Since that June 2009 call-up, Clippard has pitched to a 2.52 ERA with 10.6 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9. His arm has proven to be resilient after working 91 innings in 2010 (78 appearances) and 88 1/3 innings in 2011 (72 appearances), and his fastball velocity has actually increased the last two years. He also cut his walk rate from 4.3 BB/9 in 2009-2010 to just 2.6 BB/9 in 2011. Clippard's biggest flaw is his utter inability to get ground balls, which makes him homer prone. His 25.6% ground ball rate since the start of 2009 is easily the lowest among all pitchers (min. 200 IP), and his 1.05 HR/9 is the third highest among relievers during that time. He did make his first All-Star team in 2011 despite the long ball problem.

Clippard qualified for Super Two status by just two days of service time this offseason, so he'll be arbitration-eligible four times instead of the usual three. Our system projects him to make $1.7MM in 2012, which puts him in uncharted territory for non-closing relievers. Fellow Super Two relievers like George Sherrill ($900K in 2008), Brandon League ($640K in 2009), Rafael Perez ($795K in 2010), and Nick Masset ($1.035MM in 2010) all received considerably less their first time through arbitration while Brian Wilson ($4.4375MM in 2010) received considerably more thanks to his saves total. Clippard falls somewhere in the middle, an elite setup man without enough saves to pad his salary.

You don't see many teams locking up relievers to long-term contracts that buy out arbitration years for a number of reasons, namely the risk involved. Relievers are more volatile than just about any other position in the game, plus their salaries generally remain affordable through arbitration anyway. Wilson, Masset, Manny Corpas, and Jonathan Broxton all signed multi-year contracts that bought out some (but not all) arbitration years and no free agent years. A similarly structured contract could benefit both the Nationals and Clippard.

A two-year contract in the $4-4.5MM range or a three-year contract around $8MM seasons reasonable, though that is just my speculation. A relatively short-term commitment like that would put some guaranteed money in Clippard's pocket while allowing him to maintain the earning potential of his later arbitration years and free agency. The Nats would get some financial certainty and save a few bucks before he starts approaching closer money through arbitration. Most relievers don't get the luxury of multi-year contracts, but then again Clippard isn't most relievers. Washington is improving every year, and a multi-year deal for their star setup man could help ensure that he's still affordable when they're ready to contend.

Photo courtesy of Icon SMI.


David Price Among Those Reaching Super Two Status

Players with two years and 146 days of Major League service time will qualify for Super Two status, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes has learned.  This was the same cutoff point that was predicted by CAA in April, and as MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith wrote six months ago, it is "a decidedly late cutoff."  In 2010, the cutoff date was two years and 122 days of service, while the 2009 cutoff was two years and 139 days.

Click here to refresh yourself on the details of the Super Two process, but to summarize, Super Two players will earn a fourth year of salary arbitration (as opposed to the usual three) before reaching free agency.  So, all players with less than three years of service time but at least 2.146 (two years, 146 days) of service time quality as Super Twos.

This year's crop of Super Twos includes some of the top young arms in the game — David Price, Rick Porcello, Daniel Bard, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Tyler ClippardRyan Roberts is also a Super Two, so he could be in line for an extra payday in the wake of his breakout 2011 season.



Quick Hits: Clippard, Storen, Ellsbury, Braves

B.J. Upton, Evan Longoria and Casey Kotchman all homered for the Rays tonight as Tampa Bay defeated Boston, 9-2, in the opener of a big four-game series.  The Red Sox now have just a three-game lead over the Rays (and a four-game lead over the idle Angels) for the AL Wild Card.

Some notes from around the league….


Nationals Making Headway On Acquiring Span

10:47pm: The Nationals are more likely to go after Span than Michael Bourn or B.J. Upton at this point, according to ESPN.com's Buster Olney (on Twitter). Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports hears that the sides are in a "staredown" (Twitter link). The Twins want the Nationals to include Storen in their offer.

9:22pm: The deal is "no closer than any other day," an MLB official told Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

6:31pm: A deal featuring Span and Storen continues to look close, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter).

6:08pm: The Twins are insisting on acquiring Storen with Bernadina and minor league infielder Stephen Lombardozzi for Span, according to Jim Bowden of ESPN.com (on Twitter).

5:18pm: There are lots of mixed signals about the talks, but no deal is close, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (on Twitter).

3:28pm: The Nationals are making headway with the Twins on a deal for Span, tweets ESPN's Jayson Stark.  The Twins are insisting Storen be included along with a second player.

1:50pm: The Twins want Roger Bernadina along with a reliever in any deal that sends Span to the Nationals, tweets Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post.

10:45am: The Nationals are pushing setup man Tyler Clippard on the Twins for center fielder Denard Span over closer Drew Storen, tweets Scott Miller of CBS Sports.  He says the Twins won't trade Span for a setup man, however.

Aside from saves, Storen comes with one more year of team control than Clippard.  Still, we're talking about 2015 and 2016, and there's no telling what can happen with relievers in the course of several years.


Nationals Targeting Denard Span

10:08am: The Twins are unhappy with the Nationals' offer, Rosenthal reports (on Twitter). Meanwhile, the Nationals are worried about Span's concussion.

FRIDAY, 9:23am: Talks between the Twins and Nationals are ongoing, according to Jon Paul Morosi and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Span and Storen are at the center of discussions, with Roger Bernadina and others in play. The Nationals aren't talking exclusively to the Twins as they search for a center fielder, but Span appears to be high on their list of targets.

THURSDAY, 12:52pm: The Nationals are not willing to trade Storen for Span, reports MLB.com's Bill Ladson.

WEDNESDAY, 3:20pm: The Nationals continue to target Span, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, and Storen may be in play.

MONDAY, 2:03pm: The Nationals have talked to the Twins about Span, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.  The Nationals are unwilling to trade Drew Storen or Tyler Clippard, though Rosenthal feels Ian Desmond could be of interest to the Twins.

1:30pm: Twins center fielder Denard Span is high on the Nationals' list of targets, reports Amanda Comak of the Washington Times.  Span would fit the team's desire for a controllable center fielder/leadoff hitter, assuming there are no ill effects from a concussion suffered in June.

Span, 27, is hitting .294/.361/.385 on the season in 255 plate appearances.  His center field defense has been a plus in recent years, according to UZR.  His team-friendly contract has less than $15MM remaining through 2014, plus a club option for '15.  It's not known whether the Twins consider Span expendable; Ben Revere has a .249/.287/.284 line filling in.  The asking price would surely be significant.

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first mentioned Span as a potential Nats target earlier this month, along with B.J. Upton, Michael Bourn, and Colby Rasmus.


Cafardo On Clippard, Pence, Upton, Myers

In a conversation with Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, Red Sox CEO Larry Lucchino echoed John Henry's sentiment from earlier this week: Whether or not Boston makes a move at the deadline, the luxury tax won't be an issue. Lucchino said the Sox have paid the tax before, and would be willing to do so again if the right deal came along. Here are some other highlights from Cafardo's weekly notes column:

  • The Rangers have made "a lot of inquiries" on Tyler Clippard. The Braves, Yankees, and Red Sox also have varying levels of interest in the Nationals' setup man.
  • According to an Astros source, the team intends to hold on to Hunter Pence. However, Cafardo points out that could change in the offseason, with the new ownership group (and possibly a new GM) in control.
  • Some Nationals people believe a change of scenery would greatly benefit B.J. Upton, and are considering "offering the moon" for him.
  • There hasn't been a whole lot of interest in Brett Myers yet. "We’ve had a couple of bites from National League teams, but not much else," said an Astros official.
  • Athletics lefty Craig Breslow is drawing interest from the Yankees and Red Sox.

Nats Rumors: Storen, Clippard, Desmond, Gorzelanny

The Nationals are listening on top relievers Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, but such a trade would have to fill a specific long-term need such as center field.  Teams are calling on Storen, Clippard, and Todd Coffey.

Potential center field targets for Washington include B.J. Upton, Michael Bourn, Colby Rasmus, and Denard Span, writes Rosenthal.  He believes that a reliever alone probably would not bring back a center fielder, but the Nats could also trade shortstop Ian Desmond since some club officials would like to move Danny Espinosa to shortstop.

Storen is under team control through 2016, Clippard and Desmond through '15.  Desmond would be an interesting name for teams seeking shortstop help, though he's limped to a .226/.269/.311 line in 361 plate appearances this year. 

The Nationals also have starting pitching to spare, as ESPN's Jerry Crasnick tweets that they will move Jason Marquis, Livan Hernandez, and Tom Gorzelanny.  Gorzelanny is a bit of a surprise, as he's got strong strikeout and walk rates and is under team control through 2013.


Rosenthal On Rangers, Relief Market

Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com has the latest on the Texas Rangers' pursuit of bullpen help and a few other items of note on the relief market.

  • The Rangers are stocked with prospects and cash, and they are shopping for top-flight relievers.
  • Texas' trade targets include San Diego's Heath Bell and Mike Adams, Oakland's Andrew Bailey and Washington's Tyler Clippard.
  • The asking price for each of those relievers is high. The A's and Nats, in particular, will need to be overwhelmed to move Bailey and Clippard, respectively. Both right-handers will be arbitration-eligible for the first time this offseason.
  • For trade partners in need of offense, the Rangers have a useful trade chip in slugger Chris Davis, who is Major League-ready.
  • The Padres are discussing their relievers with the Yankees, Phillies and other clubs.

Gammons Talks Trade Market

Peter Gammons spoke with a host of scouts, general managers, and MLB executives, all of which is compiled in his latest piece at MLB.com, which is chock full of trade-related news:

  • The Astros are asking for as much in return for Wandy Rodriguez as the Rockies are for Ubaldo Jimenez. General manager Ed Wade is in a difficult position, caught between an ownership change.
  • Half a dozen teams are looking for right-handed offense, but the Rockies won't trade Ryan Spilborghs and the Cubs are holding onto Jeff Baker. Gammons says that reduces that market to Conor Jackson, Josh Willingham, Reed Johnson, Lastings Milledge, and Jeff Francoeur. The Twins recently announced they won't trade Michael Cuddyer as well.
  • The Dodgers want to shed salary, but don't have much to shed besides Jamey Carroll and Hiroki Kuroda. Gammons spoke with two East coast executives that said Kuroda, who has a full no-trade clause, won't accept a deal to an East Coast team.
  • The Athletics will move veteran bats and probably a reliever or two.
  • The Mariners won't have a fire sale, and aren't likely to get much for Erik Bedard in light of his injury.
  • The Nationals are willing to trade Tyler Clippard, and have been continually pursuing Michael Bourn. They're also one of several teams who showed interest in Julio Borbon prior to his injury.
  • Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail is in a tough spot because he doesn't know which way owner Peter Angelos wants him to go, according to a rival GM.
  • Jordan Pacheco and Wilin Rosario make it possible for the Rockies to trade Chris Iannetta, but the Red Sox seem content wth their catching options.