Mike Rizzo, in a late May 2015 interview with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.'s Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier, talked, as transcribed by the Washington Post's Dan Steinberg, about the reaction this winter after the Washington Nationals traded popular 29-going-on-30-year-old late-inning reliever Tyler Clippard to the Oakland Athletics straight up for 32-year-old shortstop Yunel Escobar.
Clippard was one year away from free agency, coming off a 1.5 fWAR 2014 campaign in which he put up a 2.18 ERA, a 2.75 FIP, 23 walks (2.94 BB/9) and 82 Ks (10.49 K/9) in 70 ⅓ innings pitched, and due a raise from the $5.875M he got in 2014. He ended up signing for $8.3M, avoiding arbitration with the A's.
Escobar, acquired by the A's from the Tampa Bays Rays just days before the trade to the Nats, was already signed through 2016 ($5M in '15, $7M in '16) with a club option for 2017 ($7M or $1M buyout), and he was coming off a down-year in a 0.0 fWAR 2014 season which saw him put up a .258/.324/.340 line, 18 doubles and seven home runs in 137 games and 529 plate appearances.
"You know, when we traded Tyler Clippard this offseason, you would have thought that we had spit on the Capitol Building or something," Rizzo told Paulsen and Rouhier:
"It was unbelievable, the response that we got. And we were trading a very very good, expensive, one-year-before-free-agency 8th inning pitcher for a player that we feel is an every-day player at reasonable cost for the next three years. Those deals you have to do every time you have the opportunity to do them, or you’re going to be stuck with an old team with big contracts that can’t be moved, and you will have your spike of years that you can win, and you’ll have your spike of down years that you’re going to lose big time."
Rizzo said this winter that he saw Escobar, acquired to play second initially, as a potential rebound candidate after an injury-impacted 2014 campaign in which the infielder struggled offensively and was, statistically, one of the worst shortstops in the majors.
Through 85 games and 355 plate appearances as a National, Escobar has put a .325/.369/.429 line with 17 doubles and five home runs.
He has been a valuable addition, who was acquired to play second but agreed to play third after Anthony Rendon was injured in Spring Training.
Clippard has a 2.79 ERA, a 3.89 FIP, 21 walks (4.89 BB/9) and 38 Ks (8.84 K/9) in 38 ⅔ innings pitched, earning 17 saves for the A's so far this season.
It's a deal that's worked out well for both teams.
The Nationals' plans to replace Clippard in the eighth inning? Not so much.
With the trade deadline approaching, there are a number of reports tying the Nationals to some of the big-name arms believed to be available like Jonathan Papelbon, Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel... and Tyler Clippard as the Nats seek to find a late-inning option that can potentially close and/or help serve as a bridge to Drew Storen in the ninth.
San Francisco Chronicle A's beat writer Susan Slusser wrote on Sunday night that the Nationals and A's have talked about both Clippard and Athletics' utility man Ben Zobrist.
Former Nats' GM Jim Bowden updated his list of the wants and needs of each of the 30 MLB teams last night, and he too pointed to relief pitching as the Nationals' main focus at the deadline.
According to Bowden, the Nationals have "at least touched base" with the Padres, Reds, Brewers, Phillies and A's to talk about Kimbrel, Chapman, Francisco Rodriguez, Papelbon and Clippard, respectively.
With the Nats' postseason aspirations, Bowden writes, "don't be surprised if the Nationals pay the price and add an impact reliever to go with Drew Storen late in games."
The A's already pulled the trigger on a Scott Kazmir trade last week.
Is Clippard the next one to go as Slusser predicts?
Will Rizzo bring Clippard back for another run as Storen's set-up man?
FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal reported on Sunday, as Slusser mentioned, that the Mets have inquired as to the availability of both Clippard and Zobrist, but added that the Athletics, "expect to receive better offers from other clubs for Zobrist and Clippard, most likely in separate trades."
CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman, just this morning, put the Nationals in the markets for both Kimbrel and Chapman, writing that it will be, "... interesting to see how willing they might be to move Storen to a set-up role."
Is there a reunion in the Nationals' near future? Will there be a new name in the Nationals' bullpen before the week is over? Or potentially an old one?