Until Monday afternoon, the Nationals were still in the mix for old friend Tyler Clippard, the steady right-handed reliever (who was also a fan and clubhouse favorite) whom the Nationals traded to Oakland for Yunel Escobar this offseason. But there will be no reunion. The New York Mets acquired him and cash instead, sending 6-foot-7 right-handed pitching prospect Casey Meisner to Oakland, eliminating one of several back-end relief options the Nationals were considering ahead of Friday’s non-waiver trade deadline.
Clippard is due about $3 million for the rest of the season and Meisner was rated by MLB.com as the Mets’ 15th best prospect.
The Mets, two games back of the Nationals in the National League East, ended any chances that the Nationals might be able to reunite Clippard with close friend Drew Storen in a familiar and beloved late-inning combination. But for now, Washington will have to look elsewhere.
The Nationals have been linked to Reds closer Aroldis Chapman and Padres closer Craig Kimbrel, both of whom likely would require significant sacrifice of prospects or more given that each is all-star caliber and would remain under team control past this season. Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon is also available, though he would have to approve a trade to the Nationals, and told CSN Philly he would accept a trade only if given the opportunity to close. Given that Storen is third in the majors in saves this season and in the midst of one of his best professional seasons, that is not a given. Padres setup man Joaquin Benoit also might be available, as might several Rays relievers such as Brad Boxberger.
Seeing Clippard facing them in blue and orange will sting the Nationals, regardless of what moves the team makes. Clippard served as Oakland’s closer this season, compiling 17 saves in 21 chances. Clippard has a 2.79 ERA in 38 2/3 innings, but his strikeout rate (8.8 K/9) has dipped and walk rate (4.9 BB/9) has spiked from his averages during his run from 2011-14 with the Nationals (10.4 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9). He has still held opponents to a .175 average and .567 OPS, on par with previous seasons.