Pittsburgh Pirates Trade Rumors – Day 7 – Tyler Clippard


Welcome to Rum Bunter’s 12 Days of Trademas! On each day between now and the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline, we will profile a player or two who may be a potential trade target for the Pittsburgh Pirates. We will highlight both the cases for and against that player in order to give you the full scope of what acquiring that player might entail.

On this the seventh day of our 12 Days of Pittsburgh Pirates Trademas, we decided to look at an area that the Pirates want to address before the deadline: the bullpen. Ken Rosenthal, MLB on Fox reporter, recently sent out a tweet following the deal for Aramis Ramirez.

The back-end of the Pirates’ bullpen is very good. Jared Hughes, Tony Watson, and Mark Melancon each sport sparkling ERAs, but the problem arises when the team is trying to figure out who will get the ball to those three if a starer has a bad start or if one of them needs a night off. After all, those three can’t pitch every game. Antonio Bastardo and Arquimedes Caminero aren’t getting the job done right now, and Deolis Guerra isn’t an ideal pitcher in a playoff race with his little major league experience.

Who might be one of the biggest reliever names on the move this week? Tyler Clippard, of course. The 30-year-old is a free agent after this season and has a track record of success as a reliever at the major league level. He made a name for himself while pitching with the Washington Nationals, and he’s been a positive-win player every year of his career except for his rookie year with the New York Yankees, when he was still a starter. Let’s take a quick look at Clippard’s career numbers.

2011 ★26WSN301.0001.8372088.148181811261040.8382.610.6
2014 ★29WSN74.6362.1875170.1472217523820.9952.910.5
9 Yrs3828.5762.8745751529.2358180169602205861.0913.710.0

As we can see, he consistently pitches a lot of innings for a reliever, and he has a career ERA under 3.00. Would he be a good fit in the Pirate bullpen?

The case for Tyler Clippard

Tyler Clippard is one of the best relief options on the market. It’s not necessarily because he has the best ERA of any reliever available (he probably doesn’t), and it’s not because he’s signed for a low salary (he’s not), and nor is it because he’ll be cheap to acquire (that remains to be seen). It’s because he has a proven track record of success in the majors. He proved he was an effective relief pitcher and closer for the Nationals when the team gained steam and rose to prominence. And he hasn’t let up. For his career, he has a 2.87 ERA and a 3.66 FIP. He pitches much better than the advanced stats indicate he should, but he more than likely won’t regress to that FIP number anytime soon, considering how long he’s been pitching well in the league.

This season, Clippard sports a 2.79 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP, and has been worth 1.0 win above replacement. That WAR number would put him behind Melancon and Watson but higher than Hughes. Thus, Clippard could slot in as the seventh inning arm that the Pirates have been looking for (their trust in Hughes seems iffy at best), while Hughes could move to middle relief. Their pen would feature four relievers with sub-3 ERAs, and we saw how important a dynamic bullpen can be last season with the Kansas City Royals (who are also showing the importance of a good bullpen again this year).

Clippard’s also a rental, which means he may cost less than a player that has additional years left on his contract. Another benefit to targeting him is the fact that he pitches for the A’s. Early indications of the Scott Kazmir deal from a few days ago are that the Houston Astros didn’t give up much to acquire Kazmir, who’s having a terrific season and is a lefty, which is a valuable commodity. Billy Beane also didn’t get a tremendous return for Jeff Samardzija in the offseason, so maybe Neal Huntington would be able to pry Clippard away without giving up much. Eating salary could make the prospect return even less, as we all know the financial situation over the years in Oakland.

More from Pirates News

The case against Tyler Clippard

Just because Scott Kazmir was had for a small price doesn’t mean Clippard will be. After all, Billy Beane is frequently considered one of the best general managers in the game, and he knows which prospects to target from another team. Huntington is very smart as well, however, so I don’t think he’d be heisted in a trade; he never really is.

The $8.3 million salary Clippard is making this year is also nothing to scoff at. The Pirates added $3 million with the Ramirez deal, and would most likely add at least a few more million with Clippard. The team’s payroll is approaching $100 million, and we all know that that’s something to keep an eye on.

There may be other, cheaper options to acquire via the relief pitcher route in the market. Clippard’s name carries value, which might increase the competition for him. Why pay a high price for Clippard when you could target a lesser-known name with similar or better numbers?

His FIP of 3.89 this season is also more than a full point higher than his ERA of 2.79. He could regress, but we’ve already addressed his career FIP versus his career ERA, so he likely won’t.


There’s not much to dislike about Clippard in terms of his stats. He’s had proven success in the bigs and he’s a rental. The cost to acquire him might not be high in this buyer’s market, except if the competition for him is high. The Pittsburgh Pirates should add a reliever before the deadline to improve over Bastardo and/or Caminero, so it’s just a matter of who they target. I’m all for acquiring Clippard if the cost to get him is right.

What do you think? Let us know on twitter! You can tweet us here @rumbunter or use the #12DaysOfTrademas hashtag! You can also air your grievances in the comments section below or on our facebook page. Make sure to stay tuned tomorrow for the fifth day of Trademas!

Next: Pittsburgh Pirates Trade Rumors - Day 5 - Mitch Moreland