In writing on Friday about the possibility of the Washington Nationals dealing right-hander Jordan Zimmermann (and then signing right-hander Max Scherzer) this winter, ESPN.com's Jayson Stark suggested that, "[s]o many teams report that the Nationals are listening closely on a big group of prominent players -- Zimmermann, Doug Fister, Denard Span, Tyler Clippard, even Ian Desmond -- that almost anything is possible."
In fact, Stark wrote, the Nats might have, "... the potential to make the biggest deal of the offseason. And maybe not just one."
"'I could see [GM Mike Rizzo] making a few blockbusters,'" an NL executive tells the ESPN reporter, "'with the pitching staff in particular.'"
Zimmermann and Fister's names have come up often this winter as extension candidates and potential trade chips for the Nationals since both (and, in fact, all of the players mentioned above) are headed for free agency after the 2015 season and have so-far been unable to agree on long-term deals that would keep them in the nation's capital.
This afternoon, it was Tyler Clippard's turn.
FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal wrote that after teams in need of relief help check out the free agent market for relievers, "there is an attractive right-handed option on the trade market -- Nationals setup man Tyler Clippard."
Clippard, 29, finished his seventh season with the Nationals and his eighth major league season overall with a 2.18 ERA, a 2.75 FIP, 23 walks (2.94 BB/9) and 82 Ks (10.49 K/9) in 75 games and 70 ⅓ IP over which he was worth +1.5 fWAR.
Latest on bullpen market - including an interesting trade candidate.... http://t.co/Fu6EnhBb9S— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 6, 2014
"The Nats are 'likely' to move Clippard," according to a source Rosenthal speaks to, since the Nationals are, "... deep in right-handed relievers, and Clippard projects to earn $8 million to $9 million in his final year of arbitration before free agency."
Clippard and the Nationals avoided arbitration last winter when the two sides agreed a 1-year/$5.875M deal in February.
MLBTraderumors.com's projections have the veteran reliever getting as much as $9.3M in arbitration this winter.
Over the last three seasons, Clippard has been worth a combined +3.1 fWAR, good for 10th amongst NL relievers over that stretch, and as Rosenthal mentions, he saved 32 games as recently as 2012 when Drew Storen missed time after having elbow surgery.
With right-handers like Aaron Barrett, Blake Treinen, Craig Stammen, Taylor Hill, Taylor Jordan, Eric Fornataro... Erik Davis... A.J. Cole... and others on the 40-Man Roster, could the Nationals replace Clippard in the bullpen if they were to trade the right-hander?
Or would they be creating another hole in the 'pen which could use another arm after the loss of Rafael Soriano to free agency?
With Clippard, Soriano and Storen all on the roster and expected to work the late innings for the Nationals, Nats' GM Mike Rizzo, by his own admission, still pursued right-hander Grant Balfour last winter.
Are the Nationals more likely to add to their bullpen or deal from it?