I said Tyler Clippard got a lot of work - what does that mean?
Well it means he appeared in more games than anyone since becoming a full time reliever in 2010. 371 games, just outpacing Matt Belisle's 368. It's about 20% more appearances than the 30th guy on the list. He's faced more batters than any pure reliever (a couple relievers with a handful of starts have more - like Stammen!) and given that his control has not always been the greatest he's thrown more pitches than any reliever during this time by far. 6533 for Clippard to 6098 for 2nd place Belisle.
Do I think that this means Clippard is going to break down? Not immediately no. He threw a lot more in 2010 and 2011 than the past 3 years, and I've always liked relievers who started out as starters as far as durability goes. Clippard spent 5 years (2003-2008) in the minors as a starter. But he'll be 30 this year which means his next contract will be either 31-33 or 31-34, years where I feel the risk of injury starts to really pick-up.
Why do you think Yuney will not be great/terrible at defense?
Because that's what you usually see. Defensive stats are notoriously iffy when it comes to yearly evaluation. There's a number of reasons for that but the simplest way to think about it is evaluation of good defense can only occur if enough balls are hit to you in a certain spot. Not just that enough balls are hit to you, because if they are all hit right at you (or hit to spots no one could reach) we don't learn anything. They have to be hit in spots that some players can reach but others cannot. You have a bad week when you have a half-dozen of these hit your way and your D can come out looking bad. This is why they say look at 3 years of data. More data to evaluate.
Ok so specific to Yunel he had always not just been good but really good before last year. If we look at rolling 3-year average Defense stats from fangraphs we get 8.9, 8.0, 9.0, 11.5. You'll have to trust me those numbers are good. So last year's plummet to a -11 looks fishy. It's doubtful he's become a terrible fielder overnight.
That being said it's also doubtful he'll bounce right back. This guy over at Athletics Nation looked at comparables when Yunel got there and only found one example of a guy bouncing back to provide stellar defense and that guy was 25. Yunel is not 25 (he's 32). So while these comparisons are all over the place the take away is that he's probably going to be ok, but there isn't a good reason to think he'll be great again. It's fluky that he looked so bad, but it's not fluky he got worse.
This is important because if Yunel provides average D and gives his usual just below average bat that's where he'll provide enough additional production over theoretical Espinosa to make the deal worthwhile. If he gives below average D and the bat maybe slips a bit? It's a wash and a waste.
Who takes over for Clippard?
My initial guess is Thornton does. Veteran guy. Did well last year. Nats have another lefty (Blevins) to handle the rarely necesssary but often used LOOGY role. However I don't expect that role to last as last year was an oddly good season for Thornton and he'll be 38 next year. Who do I expect to end the season there? Either a converted Treinen or Aaron Barrett. Both will probably get a lot of later inning work, whoever shines brightest will win out.
So good right! Someone shines bright and replaces Clip. Easy peasy. Except we don't know how long it will take and previously if one of these guys shines bright they give the Nats a killer arm to use before the 8th inning. Now unless both do there's a meh arm being used more than it would have been. The loss cascades. Hopefully you have enough RP depth that the shift up doesn't put a bad reliever in an important role. Right now I'm not so sure that won't be the case
Do you think this is about money?
Hard to see otherwise right now. You can argue that the Nats are a little better today then they were yesterday with Escobar instead of Clippard. But if it was solely about getting better there were ways of doing that without shedding Clippard. The Rays wanted to trade Escobar and would have done it probably for a moderate prospect or two, or you could sign someone like Asdrubal (1 year 5 million). That way the Nats would be better with no argument necessary. The problem for someone with that way is that it costs the Nats more money. This way they save 9 million.
Now maybe they use those cost savings in other ways... but I doubt it. Still, I promised benefit of the doubt until the season starts so I'll hold off on any harsh criticism.
Any other notes?
Yeah three things I mentioned last night on Twitter (at harpergordek if you must know)
- In trading Clippard and Detwiler and letting Soriano walk the Nats let go of their relievers who pitched the 2nd, 3rd and 4th most innings totaling up to nearly 200. That's a LOT of innings to replace in general. It's even harder when you remember that Clippard was great, Soriano was very good for most of the season, and Detwiler was not terrible. This can't be corrected by throwing just anyone into the pen
- Taking it a step further, this upcoming offseason both Blevins and Thornton are FA and will likely go off to greener pastures. That's 5 important relievers from the end of 2014 not being on the team in 2016. It's hard to argue with any of the individual decisions to let these guys walk but as a whole it's worrisome.
- Let's not forget that Storen did not perform well in the playoffs again and has been known to let that affect his pitching. He also hasn't been the healthiest guy. If something happens to him... this could get ugly fast