Tyler Clippard is one of the more laidback players in the Nationals clubhouse, and so it surprised him how much he worried last week. He had still not settled with the Nationals on a contract for the 2014 season after more than a month of back-and-forth. An arbitration hearing loomed on Feb. 17. He wanted to avoid the trial and move on.
On Monday, he got his wish. Clippard and the Nationals agreed on a $5.875 million salary for this season, a raise from the $4 million he made last year for one of the best and most durable set-up relievers in baseball. As Clippard arrived for his physical today – his 29th birthday – he expressed relief that he and the Nationals and finalized a deal.
“I’m happy, man,” Clippard said. “I was glad it got done. The process, it drug out. It was stressing me out. I didn’t even think I could stress out over stuff, and I was stressing out over it. I’m just glad it got resolved and both sides are happy with how everything went down. And now we can just focus on playing the game, and that’s all I care about.”
The Nationals and Clippard were far apart on Jan. 17, the deadline for teams and arbitration-eligible players to file salary figures. Clippard requested $6.35 million, and the Nationals offered $4.45 million. The Nationals settled with their other nine arbitration-eligible players before Clippard’s deal got done.
“At the end of the day, if [an arbitration hearing] had to happen, it had to happen,” Clippard said. “I understand the business side of things. That whole process, I’m very open-minded to the whole thing. I was hoping it didn’t come to that, and I’m glad it didn’t. If it happened, it happened. That’s just kind of the way things go sometimes. It didn’t happen, so it’s all good.”
Clippard still has one more season or arbitration eligibility before he qualifies for free agency. With their other two stars in similar situations, Ian Desmond and Jordan Zimmermann, the Nationals reached two-year deals. Clippard hinted that the Nationals and his agent, Casey Close, briefly discussed a multi-year pact before settled on the one-year deal.
“During those types of situations, you try to feel out all the different scenarios so everyone can feel happy,” Clippard said. “Those discussions, they happened. I wasn’t on the phone. It was my agent and them, and whether or not there was some validity to that … we were just trying to get a deal done that both sides were happy with.”