D-backs sign reliever Clippard to 2-year deal

Ziegler still likely candidate to open 2016 season as Arizona's closer

D-backs sign reliever Clippard to 2-year deal

PHOENIX -- Given the chance to make their bullpen better, the D-backs couldn't pass on the opportunity to sign free-agent right-hander Tyler Clippard to a two-year deal Monday.

According to FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal, the deal is worth $12.25 million and includes a $4 million signing bonus, a $4.1 million salary this year and a $4.15 million salary in 2017.

Clippard, who turns 31 on Sunday, pitched for the A's and Mets last season, going a combined 5-4 with a 2.92 ERA in 69 appearances.

"He was in my opinion and in our group here, the next best option to help our bullpen," D-backs general manager Dave Stewart said. "The innings that we had concerns with, the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, he's got a great track record, done outstanding work over the years and we think he'll be a great fit in addition to the guys we have down there."

Clippard's perfect 8th inning

Clippard has a 2.88 ERA over his nine-year big league career, seven of which were with the Nationals. He also saved 53 games in his career, including 19 last season.

Despite that success, the D-backs intend to open the year with Brad Ziegler in the closer's role. Ziegler converted 30 of 32 save opportunities last season.

"Brad Ziegler has done absolutely nothing to lose his job as our closer," Stewart said.

In addition to Ziegler and Clippard, Stewart talked about having Daniel Hudson in a late-inning role.

Other relievers who appear to have spots in the bullpen heading into Spring Training are Josh Collmenter, Randall Delgado and Andrew Chafin.

That leaves a lot of young arms and non-roster invitees competing for either one of two spots, depending on whether the team carries its preferred 12 pitchers, or it feels it needs to carry 13.

Hot Stove Tracker

Among the multitude of pitchers competing for the final spot or spots are: Matt Reynolds, Silvino Bracho, Enrique Burgos, Jake Barrett, Cody Hall, Dominic Leone, Keith Hessler, Evan Marshall, Adam Loewen, Wesley Wright and Sam LeCure.

Stewart said less than a week ago he did not anticipate making any additional moves, with his bullpen preferring to go with the above names.

"We were always thinking that we might be able to find someone to get the job done internally," Stewart said. "After further consideration, we started to look more at the free-agent market, and with everything else we've done this year to stabilize our club this year and moving forward, we felt that a pitcher that had been in those roles and has done the job and has a track record of doing the job should be the direction that we should go."

The D-backs gained some financial relief when they dealt Aaron Hill and part of his $12 million owed for next year to the Brewers a little more than a week ago. The deal saved the team around $4 million.

"It definitely gave us more flexibility to do something else," Stewart said. "There's no doubt that was very, very helpful."

To make room for Clippard on the roster, the D-backs designated left-handed pitcher Will Locante for assignment. 

Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)

After converting 30 of 32 save chances last season, Brad Ziegler should have a firm grip on the D-backs' closer role. But because he lacks the strikeout stuff (lifetime 5.9 K/9 rate) of a prototypical stopper, the 36-year-old could be challenged by Clippard. Clippard boasts the swing-and-miss arsenal (career 9.8 K/9 rate) that teams value in the final frame, and he has posted solid lifetime ratios (2.88 ERA, 1.09 WHIP).

However, Clippard is prone to fly balls, and he will need to prove that he can keep the ball from escaping hitter-friendly Chase Field in order to anchor the club's relief corps. For the time being, both Ziegler and Clippard can be considered in the final rounds of mixed-league drafts.

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.