6:19 pm: Arizona confirmed (Twitter link) that they declined their end of Clippard’s mutual option for the 2022 season.
11:34 am: Diamondbacks right-hander Tyler Clippard has been formally declared a free agent, per an announcement from the MLBPA. Clippard’s contract with Arizona had a $3.5MM mutual option for the 2022 season that came with a $500K buyout.
D-backs general manager Mike Hazen told the Arizona Republic’s Nick Piecoro yesterday that he could not yet say whether Clippard’s option would be picked up or bought out. It’s not immediately clear which side declined the option — Clippard had the right to decline before the D-backs made their intent known — but the result is the same: Clippard will receive that $500K buyout and return to the free-agent market in search of a new opportunity.
Clippard, 37 in February, is a perennially effective and perennially underrated reliever who’ll now likely look to sign what would be a fifth consecutive one-year deal. The veteran changeup specialist signed a one-year pact in Arizona last year, suffered a shoulder strain during Spring Training, and spent nearly four months on the injured list. However, when healthy, Clippard had another generally productive run. In 25 1/3 innings, he yielded a solid 3.20 ERA with just three home runs allowed.
That said, Clippard’s 2021 season wasn’t without its red flags — even beyond the injury. This year’s 18.9% strikeout rate was his lowest since 2008, while his 9.9% walk rate was his highest since 2017. Clippard has never been a flamethrower, but his 89.1 mph average fastball this season was also a career-low and ranked as the 16th-lowest mark among 344 relievers with at least 20 innings pitched.
It should also be pointed out that while Clippard and that signature changeup have historically dominated opposing left-handed batters, that was far from the case in 2021. Rather, Clippard was clubbed for a .279/.354/.581 line by opposing lefties. Clippard’s dominance over lefties and similarly (and more expected) sharp results against right-handers has long been one of his most desirable assets, so this year’s struggles in that regard could further dampen his market.