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Nationals trade Tyler Clippard to A's for infielder Yunel Escobar

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The Washington Nationals announced tonight that they have traded veteran reliever Tyler Clippard to the Oakland A's in return for veteran infielder Yunel Escobar who is expected to play second base in the nation's capital in 2015.

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When FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal wrote about rumors that the Washington Nationals, Tampa Bay Rays and New York Mets discussed a three-team deal that would have sent Ian Desmond to NY via Tampa with infielders Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar ending up in D.C., the bow-tied reporter wrote that the infielders could have served as a bridge for the Nats until prospects Wilmer Difo and Trea Turner were ready to play in the majors.

After tonight's report that the Nationals have now in fact acquired Escobar, who was traded to the Oakland A's last week, in return for Tyler Clippard, CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman, who was first with the report of the deal, is writing that the 32-year-old veteran infielder will presumably play second base for the Nats and, "... then replace [Desmond] at shortstop either at midseason (if traded) or next year (if he leaves as a free agent)."

The Nationals were rumored to be after an eventual replacement for Desmond over the last year or so in case they did eventually lose him, and as Heyman notes, they acquired a player they think can eventually step in at short last month in the three-team trade with Tampa Bay and San Diego that landed Turner, the Padres' 2014 1st Round pick (and RHP Joe Ross). Escobar, who is under contract for 2015-16 at $5M and $7M with an option for 2017 at another $7M or a $1M buyout, seems to fit as a bridge to that next generation of Nationals' infielders.

In order to acquire Escobar, the Nats sent veteran reliever Tyler Clippard to the A's. Clippard, 29, is coming off yet another big year in the Nationals' bullpen in 2014 which saw the eight-year major leaguer post a 2.18 ERA, a 2.75 FIP, 23 walks (2.94 BB/9) and 82 Ks (10.49 K/9) in 70 ⅓ IP over which he was worth +1.5 fWAR.

After avoiding arbitration and agreeing to a 1-year/$5.875M deal last February, Clippard was due to get a significant raise this winter with MLBTraderumors.com projecting the set-up man, who showed he could close when bullpen mate Drew Storen was sidelined in 2012, might receive as much as $9.3M this time around.

Clippard talked earlier this winter about wanting to close, but accepting whatever role he was asked to fill in the Nats' talented 'pen.

"I’ve said that from Day One," Clippard said of wanting to work the ninth. "Since before I think the day after I became a reliever, I wanted to close. I think that’s always been a goal of mine and I got a chance to do that in 2012, but I realize the importance of having a collective group. It can’t just be one guy in the ninth that’s going to make a good team or a good bullpen. So, I have perspective on that."

Will he get that opportunity in Oakland? If so, another big payday could be coming if he excels in that role in Oakland in what is his final year before free agency as well.

The question for the Nationals, however, is who steps up to fill in as the new set-up man? Blake Treinen? Aaron Barrett?

Have the Nats filled one and created another hole on their roster with tonight's move?

The Nationals just officially announced the deal on Twitter: