Tyler Clippard wasn't interested in talking about potentially going to arbitration with the Washington Nationals this winter when he met with reporters this weekend at NatsFest in the Gaylord Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, MD. The 28-year-old reliever finished the 2013 season with a 2.41 ERA, a 3.82 FIP, 24 walks (3.04 BB/9) and 73 Ks (9.25 K/9) in 72 appearances and 71 IP over which he was worth +0.4 fWAR. After signing a 1-year/$4M deal last January and avoiding arbitration, Clippard asked for $6.35M in 2014 and the Nats countered with an offer of $4.45M. If it's up to Clippard, those negotiations won't take place in the press.
"Those discussions are all up to me, the Nationals, my agent and everything like that," he explained when a reporter asked if he expected to go to arbitration. "Talking about it in the media does me no good."
Clippard said he was fine with the process though.
"It's part of the business," he said. "And I think kind of getting to this point in my career is something I always wanted to do. So from that aspect it's enjoyable. But the business side of things... I like being a baseball player. I don't like being an agent or anything like that."
The veteran of seven major league seasons, six of them in D.C. following the December 2007 trade that brought him to the Nationals from the New York Yankees, was, however, willing to talk about what he thought went wrong for the 2012 NL East Champions when they failed to defend their division title and make it back to the postseason in 2013.
"From a team standpoint," Clippard said, "I feel like we just kind of let our guard down last year coming off a successful 2012. Knowing that we had a lot of the guys returning, I feel like we might have just expected to win instead of earning it a little bit. So we got behind the eight ball a little bit and that kind of snowballed on us for longer than we expected."
"Going through that though is only going to help us," he continued. "I think we know we can't just go out there and be like, 'Okay, we're the best team,' and it happens. We have to go out there and earn it and I think we all know that as a group now. It's not just going to be given to us. And it's going to make us dangerous because going through that stuff is important for clubs to take the next step."
The moves the Nationals have made this season to build for another run have impressed Clippard, who said as it stands now he thinks he'll be working the eighth inning again like he has in recent years, and he also said that he thought the addition of a left-handed reliever like Jerry Blevins will help the relief corps by more clearly defining what everyone's role will be this season.
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"It will be helpful," Clippard told reporters. "Last year it kind of got a little weird at times knowing exactly who was going to come in for the lefties and maybe the work load was a little bit increased for certain guys because of that. So now it's just more structured. As long as we know what to expect down there we can be more prepared to do our job and that's all you can ask for."
With Blevins added, Xavier Cedeno an option in the pen and Doug Fister a part of the rotation, Clippard said he thought the Nationals have the arms to match up against anyone in baseball.
"Our pitching staff is ridiculous," he said. "Our starting five, bullpen, top to bottom I'll put our arms up against anybody in the league. And that's what it takes in this day and age to win championships is pitching and we've certainly got it, so I'm excited."
The lesson learned from last season, he explained, is that you can't have any letdowns.
"You've got to start good and finish good and everything in between," Clippard said. "That's what championship clubs do and that's how you get to where you want to be."
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