Nats send Clippard to A's for Escobar, flexibility
By Bill Ladson
WASHINGTON -- It looks like the Nationals have solved a couple of potential roster issues, as they acquired veteran infielder Yunel Escobar from the Athletics for reliever Tyler Clippard.
Escobar has played shortstop for the bulk of his Major League career, but with an opening at second base for the Nats, he could be moving to the other side of the infield in the short term. In the longer term, the trade could be a sign about shortstop Ian Desmond's future with the club. Desmond is eligible to be a free agent after the 2015 season, and Escobar could be his successor at shortstop.
Escobar, 32, is coming off a season in which he hit .258 with seven home runs and 58 RBIs for Tampa Bay, making only 16 errors at shortstop. Just last week, the Rays traded Escobar and infielder outfielder Ben Zobrist to the Athletics.
Escobar's best season was with the Braves in 2009, when he hit .299 with 14 home runs and 76 RBIs. Escobar also spent two seasons with the Blue Jays.
As for Clippard, he was arguably the best reliever for the Nationals over the last five years. Clippard, 29, went 34-24 with 34 saves and a 2.68 ERA in 414 games in seven seasons with Washington. While he spent most of his time as a setup man, Clippard earned 32 saves while serving as closer in 2012. Clippard is set to be a free agent after this season and has said he wants to be a closer. That was never going to happen with the Nats because Drew Storen has the role locked up.
Clippard went 7-4 with one save and a 2.18 ERA in 2014 and, for the second time in his career, led Major League Baseball in holds with 40. His 2014 season was just the third 40-hold campaign in MLB history.
Would love to take this opportunity to thank all the #nats fans, each and everyone of you had a huge impact on my life, I am very greatful!
With Clippard gone, either Aaron Barrett or Blake Treinen could become the eighth-inning setup man. Although Treinen is known as a starter, the Nationals see him as a late-inning reliever. Barrett had a productive rookie season in 2014, posting a 2.66 ERA in 50 games. He was often used in the middle to late innings.
As for Desmond, the move provides a potential successor for him, if the Nats were either to trade him or allow him to depart next winter via free agency. Escobar is under contract through 2016, with a club option for '17.
Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo and Desmond's agent, Doug Rogalski, were at the General Managers Meetings and the Winter Meetings late last year, but there were no contract negotiations between the two parties, a source said. The team felt it offered Desmond market value.
Desmond is the longest-tenured member of the Nats. He was selected by the Expos in the third round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, and he has been a steady influence on and off the field since becoming a Major Leaguer in 2009.