Is there a relief option still available for the Blue Jays to consider to add even more depth to their pitching staff?
With relief pitching being the main focus for the Blue Jays this offseason, one reliever who hasn’t gotten as much attention as he should, is former New York Met setup man Tyler Clippard. Clippard has remained on the market without much buzz around him all offseason, as big name closers and setup men have been traded and signed for big dollars by other teams. A shaky second half to his season, and a non-eventful trip to the World Series, might be cautioning some teams to stay away, or the price is just too high. With the Canadian dollar somewhat forcing the Blue Jays to only make some limited moves, adding Clippard to the bullpen for a good price, might be the best bang for your buck signing of the offseason so far.
The price for pitching is at an all time high this offseason, seeing relievers like John Axford (4.20ERA in 2015) getting a 2yr/$10 million contract from the Oakland Athletics, and former Blue Jays reliever Mark Lowe getting 2yr/$11 million with the Detroit Tigers, for only 55IP of efficient Major League time. Earlier this week the Blue Jays were rumored to be talking to Antonio Bastardo (Our Editor Shaun wrote a profile on him HERE) who only may have pitched 57.1IP in 2015. Bastardo put up some pretty efficient strikeout numbers, good enough to get him a 2yr/$12 million dollar contract from the New York Mets. With Bastardo signing with the Mets as a setup man behind Jeurys Familia, it’s almost certain that Mets have given up on re-signing Clippard.
Tyler Clippard was drafted in the late rounds of the 2001 Draft, by the New York Yankees. The Yankees took a chance on Clippard, after he had been suspended from the baseball team in high school for a DUI. Scouts were never able to see Clippard pitch in games, but with the help of his father, Tyler was able to setup pitching showcases for Major League scouts to come watch his stuff. Clippard would be traded from the Yankees to the Washington Nationals in the 2007 offseason, but it wasn’t until 2009 that Clippard broke out in a reliever role for the Nationals.
It wasn’t too long ago, that people viewed Clippard as one of the best bullpen pieces in MLB. The two time All-Star, is a legitimate setup workhorse, pitching more than 70IP since 2010. His Fourseam Fastball with a ton of rising action, and Changeup combo get a ton of weak fly ball outs. In 2014 with the Nationals, Clippard would pitch 70.1IP, 2.18ERA, 1.5WAR, and have 40 HLD, good enough to warrant an All-Star game appearance.
In 2015, Clippard just never looked comfortable in his position. In his first half of 2015 with the Oakland Athletics, Clippard was inserted into the closer role, while regular closer Sean Doolittle was on the disabled list with a shoulder injury. With the Oakland Athletics currently in a rebuild, the Athletics traded Clippard to the Mets at the July 31st Trade Deadline, for prospect Casey Meisner and cash. Clippard would transfer back into his regular setup role, but his performance wouldn’t improve, pitching to a 3.44ERA in 34IP. The walks added up, and the strikeout decreased, and Clippard became almost nonexistent in the Mets World Series run, posting a 6.75ERA in 6.1 innings of work.
Overall Clippard would only post a poor season by his own standards, finishing the year with a 2.92ERA, in 71IP. These numbers aren’t great for Clippard, but for someone who is in the prime years of their career, and this being the low point, is pretty good on most standards. The second half and post season, would definitely scare off some teams who were interested in signing Clippard. If the original rumors of trading R.A. Dickey are going to pan out, maybe for a backup catcher, or minor league pieces, that would almost guarantee Aaron Sanchez or Roberto Osuna would move into the starting rotation, if they weren’t going to already.
Signing Clippard would have to be the first step of the process of trading away Dickey, and this would be the safest move for the Blue Jays. Even if a Dickey trade didn’t happen, Clippard would bring increased bullpen depth, more flexibility, and the ability for the Blue Jays bullpen to save games if the starter couldn’t go more than five innings. It’s hard to imagine Clippard being an undervalued asset. With names like Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel, and Mark Melancon, all being either traded or thrown around in conversations, it’s no surprise Clippard didn’t get the buzz this offseason he should. Maybe it’s time for the Blue Jays to make some noise by signing Clippard.
*Featured Image Credit: Keith Allison UNDER CC BY-SA 2.0
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Spencer Redmond is a Graduate of the University of Wisconsin. His loves in life are the NBA, MLB, Stats, and his dog Parker.