PHOENIX, AZ - JUNE 03: Pitcher Tyler Clippard #36 of the Washington Nationals warms up prior to the Major League Baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on June 3, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Todd Coffey and Tyler Clippard's names have been mentioned often in recent rumors revolving around teams in search of bullpen help. FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal, in an article entitled, "Trade Thoughts: Rangers, Nationals", suggested that if Washington was willing to part with, "...right-handed setup man Tyler Clippard and a young position prospect perhaps," in a deal with Tampa Bay, the Nats might be able to find the center fielder they're looking for and, "...make a [B.J.] Upton deal work." Upton's declining production, his high K totals and his .342 career OBP (.305 this season) don't necessarily make him the ideal leadoff man the Nats are said to searching for, however.
Mr. Rosenthal talked Todd Coffey too, reporting on the Rangers' interest in the sprinting reliever, and ESPN.com's Jayson Stark discussed the big right-hander in an article a week back entitled, "Their 'Free Agent Meter' is running", in which he wrote that, "The Rangers are stepping up their hunt for a right-handed setup man," and, "One name clearly on their list: Washington's Todd Coffey." MLB.com writer T.R. Sullivan stated without qualification that, "The Rangers have had discussions with the Nationals about their deep bullpen, including Todd Coffey and Tyler Clippard," in an article earlier this week entitled, "Daniels willing to deal for 'pen help". Boston Globe baseball writer Nick Cafardo too mentioned the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox' interest in acquiring a back-of-the-bullpen arm recently.
Asked directly about the Nats' search for a leadoff man, D.C. GM Mike Rizzo told MLB.com's Bill Ladson, in an interview published Friday night entitled, "Q&A with Nationals GM Mike Rizzo", that the Nats would still like to find the solution to their top of the order issues in-house, and, "If we can’t find that guy within the organization, we will look elsewhere," but as he has in season's past, the Nats' GM says the Nationals will be, "both buyers and sellers," at the Trade Deadline:
"If there is a trade to be made that will help us down the road, we will trade a player away to get a piece for the future. But we are not in sell mode. There are a lot of games to play, a lot of games to win. We are here to win games."
Do the Nationals trade Clippard at the height of his powers, while the whole league's still confused by his deceptive delivery, devastating change and rising heater, or do the Nats hold on to the right-hander and hope he continues to strike 11.45 batters out per 9.0 IP, while posting a 1.94 ERA (2.92 xFIP) and a low .207 BABIP? Do the Nationals already have, in the person of Henry "Lightning" Rodriguez, Clipp's eventual replacement? Rodriguez has shown recently that when he's in control out there, his triple-digit fastball, 90 mph change and brutal slider are all plus pitches capable of sending the major league's best hitters back to the dugout scratching their heads.
Can Collin Balester continue the transition he started late last season and finally claim a bullpen role in the big leagues with his own mid-90's heater and brutal 12-to-6 bender? Cole Kimball's another right-hander with a mid-90's fastball and a cruel split finger fastball. Do the Nats have the arms to replace Clippard and Coffey now? Can D.C. GM Mike Rizzo deal from a position of strength to fill other holes in the roster, or is Jason Marquis the arm the Nats pull the trigger on this year like they did with Matt Capps last year? If the outfield equivalent of former-Twins-and-current-Nats' catcher Wilson Ramos is out there, Rizzo's shown he's not afraid to make a trade.