The Cubs may have a better record if it weren’t for a struggling bullpen that sports a 4.08 ERA after Friday’s game. A strength last year, the team has blown eight saves and needs some veteran assistance in the area for Joe Maddon to rely on either in setup or as a closer. Tyler Clippard of the Oakland A’s may be a solid fit as he has experience in both areas and has shown he can get hitters out consistently throughout his career. Let’s take a look at Clippard at what it may cost to get a player of his caliber.
Upon his first full season in 2009 with the Washington Nationals, Clippard established himself as a reliable reliever and hasn’t looked back since. Clippard pitches using an unorthodox delivery that creates an unusual arm angle that makes it hard for hitters to pick up where the ball is coming from. He uses a fastball that tops out around 96 mph, a deceptive change that hits the low-80s and will mix in a cutter and a curveball from time to time to get hitters out. All four pitches have helped Clippard pitch to a career 2.87 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and a 9.9 K/9. He currently has 39 career saves and served as the Nationals primary closer in 2012, notching 32 of them and currently has six this year serving the role for the A’s. Clippard could settle down the ninth inning for the Cubs nicely or give them another solid setup man to rely on besides Pedro Strop. That versatility likely makes him a high priority target for the front office.
In terms of trade value, Clippard might not cost as much as other relievers, like Jonathan Papelbon, who have more of a track record. The best example is his own trade where the A’s acquired him from the Nationals for Yunel Escobar. Escobar is the kind of player that can start on a bad team and be a utility player on a good team. He hits well enough to not hurt you and plays solid defense. Essentially, he’s a useful Major League player with a limited skillset.
Bearing that in mind, that’s likely the trade value that A’s general manager Billy Beane would be looking for. Some close to majors players that fit the bill that come to mind are Christian Villanueva, Junior Lake or Matt Szczur. Dan Vogelbach, Jeimer Candelario or even Arismendy Alcantara also make sense for Clippard unless Beane would be more interested in a high upside pitcher like Pierce Johnson or Jake Stinnett (Stinnett signed June 19, 2014).
Other deals to consider are the ones including Jonathan Broxton and Luke Gregerson. Both pitchers are consistent relievers who have some amount of closing experience and can fill roles all over a bullpen. Both have been traded recently and give a good gauge of where the market currently is at.
Broxton has been traded twice in his career actually, the first being when he was shipped in 2012 from the Kansas City Royals to the Cincinnati Reds for RHP J.C. Sulbaran and LHP Donnie Joseph. Both pitchers were top ten prospects in a system marked in the lower third in baseball at the time. The second trade for Broxton came at the deadline last year that sent him from the Reds to the Milwaukee Brewers for RHP Kevin Shackelford and RHP Barrett Astin. Both pitchers were ranked just below the top 20 in a poor Brewers system. In his first trade, Broxton was one of the top available closers while in his second trade, Broxton already had a fair amount of miles on him and suffered some ups and downs in reliability.
Gregerson’s most recent trade saw him getting swapped by the San Diego Padres to Oakland for OF Seth Smith during the offseason in 2013. Gregerson was also traded earlier in his career, but ended up being a player to be named later before he even debuted. In Smith, the Padres received a solid platoon outfielder who mashes righties and had 10-15 home run power. This trade is very similar to the Clippard deal and that it gave the A’s a utility reliever while giving the Padres a useful Major Leaguer like Smith with a limited skillset.
Looking at all three trades, the Cubs are likely to give up either a high upside minor leaguer who is currently blocked or a useful Major Leaguer without a ton of potential. In either case, it may hurt a little to give away any of them, but to gain a player who could stabilize the bullpen and lead the Cubs to the playoffs, it may be too easy not to.
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