Here’s hoping Yunel Escobar didn’t unpack, because the veteran shortstop is on the move once again.
Less than a week after getting traded from Tampa Bay to Oakland, Escobar is headed back east to join the Nationals in exchange for reliever Tyler Clippard.
Escobar, 32, put up a .258/.324/.340 line with seven home runs and 39 RBIs for Tampa Bay last year. He has two years and $13 million left on his current contract with a $7 million club option for 2017.
While he has been at-or-below league average offensively for the bulk of his career, Escobar has maintained his value by playing solid defense up the middle. His defensive metrics slipped in 2014, but he should rebound nicely moving to second base in Washington.
The move to the keystone corner will come as Ian Desmond is unlikely to be supplanted as the Nats’ shortstop. Escobar’s inevitable move to second should move Danny Espinosa to a utility role.
Escobar could shift back to short if Desmond is traded – as was rumored when the Nationals were in pursuit of Ben Zobrist – and/or when Desmond becomes a free agent after the 2015 season.
The departure of Escobar indicates that the Athletics are ready to go with Marcus Semien at shortstop to begin the season. Semien was acquired from the White Sox in the December trade that sent right-hander Jeff Samardzija to Chicago.
In Tyler Clippard, Oakland lands an All-Star setup man who also possesses ample closing experience after saving 32 games in 2012.
Clippard, 29, posted a very solid 2.18 ERA, .995 WHIP, and a 82/23 K/BB ratio in 75 appearances last season. He has been one of the game’s best setup men since breaking into the big leagues eight years ago. In that time span he’s posted an aggregate 2.88 ERA, 1.084 WHIP, 34 saves, 150 holds, and averaged 10 K/9.
The acquisition of Clippard makes up for the club’s loss of elite setup man Luke Gregerson who signed with the division-rival Houston Astros as a free agent this off-season. It also gives them an insurance policy if second-year closer Sean Doolittle struggles in 2015.
Clippard is entering his third, and final, season of arbitration-eligibility and will be a free agent after the 2015 season.
The move looks good for both clubs as the Nationals bolster their middle infield and bench in one swift move and the Athletics re-stock their bullpen as part of general manager Billy Beane’s reload for the upcoming season.
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