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January 15, 2015

Transaction Analysis

Clippard Shipped

by R.J. Anderson and Ben Carsley

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired RHP Tyler Clippard from the Nationals in exchange for SS-R Yunel Escobar. [1/14]

Consider it a cousin to the Seth Smith-Luke Gregerson trade, as Billy Beane swaps an excess positional player for a late-inning reliever. (Escobar isn't a perfect proxy for Smith—he's more than a platoon player and rental—but Clippard is, like Gregerson was, a workhorse set-up man entering his walk year.) Anyway, Clippard works from a high release point and throws a ton of strikes. He likes to pitch up in the zone with his fastball, which features more backspin than horizontal movement, but he induces weak contact with it and uses his secondary pitches—changeup, splitter, and curveball—to change batters' eye levels. Expect Clippard and his extreme fly-ball tendencies to take well to the eighth-inning role in Oakland—or, at least, not as poorly as the last time the A's acquired a high-priced reliever from the mid-Atlantic.

Meanwhile, Escobar's departure means Marcus Semien is back at the top of the shortstop depth chart. The A's lived with Jed Lowrie's poor defense for as long as he hit, so they figure to extend the same considerations to Semien heading forward. —R.J. Anderson

Fantasy Impact

Tyler Clippard

Clippard's still not going to close, thanks to Sean Doolittle, and while the Coliseum is a great place to pitch, Washington isn't too shabby either. He continues to be a premier option in holds leagues, but the needle just doesn't move much. If the A's are out of it he's likely to be traded mid-season, so keep that in mind in AL-only leagues.

Ben Carsley

WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired SS-R Yunel Escobar from the Athletics in exchange for RHP Tyler Clippard. [1/14]

Is it a coincidence that Mike Rizzo acquired a shortstop days after rumors surfaced connecting him to the same player? Is it a coincidence that those rumors had Rizzo trading his incumbent shortstop? Is it a coincidence that Rizzo's new shortstop is under control for longer and cheaper than his old one?

We'll find out soon enough, but Escobar's presence either complicates or completes the Nationals' infield picture. Ultimately, Rizzo's plans for Ian Desmond will determine which verb fits. If Rizzo keeps Desmond, then one or the other is headed for second base; if Rizzo trades Desmond, which seems like the odds-on favorite, then Escobar slides to shortstop and serves as a bridge until Trea Turner is ready for showtime. Let's proceed with the second scenario in mind, since the first seems unnecessarily wasteful.

This is Escobar's second multi-trade offseason, joining the winter of 2012. Rizzo has to hope Escobar responds as well to these moves as he did to those, since he went on to perform well on both sides of the ball. Still, second-year skipper Matt Williams will have his hands full if he follows Joe Maddon's praise-heavy formula for keeping Escobar engaged. Of course, given how Escobar's stock slipped during the season, perhaps Williams should find his own recipe instead.

Escobar has a thick lower half and has never been confused for a range-rover; throughout his career he's atoned for that deficiency by boasting a strong arm and an affinity for highlight reel-worthy plays. Yet for whatever reason—blame it on injury, age, or apathy during a lost year on the team level—Escobar looked a step off in '14. He still hit enough to stick in the bottom-third of a lineup, but his defense will need to rebound if he's to retain his status as an above-average starter.

Given Escobar's shaky makeup, there's obvious risk here for the Nationals—especially if the follow-up sees them deal Desmond. But if Escobar does return to form, then his team-friendly contract (two years, $12 million with a club option worth $6 million) makes him a bargain-priced solution at shortstop—and yes, a movable asset if/when Turner arrives. —R.J. Anderson

Fantasy Impact

Yunel Escobar
I am so, so, so tired of talking about Yunel Escobar. He's not good, but he's likely to be slightly less not good in that lineup. Adding 2B eligibility will be cute for 2014, but will render him even more useless in 2015. I'd rather talk about first base prospects again.

Danny Espinosa
Escobar appears to have snatched Espinosa's job, plain and simple. Espinosa's intriguing 2011 and 2012 seasons are bitter memories for fantasy owners now. We should've known better than to trust a man who alters his facial hair so regularly. —Ben Carsley


R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here
Ben Carsley is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ben's other articles. You can contact Ben by clicking here

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