The Washington Nationals avoided arbitration and agreed to terms with right-handed All-Star reliever Tyler Clippard on Tuesday on a one-year deal for the 2012 season. Monetary terms were not disclosed by the team.
Clippard, a Super Two eligible player up for the first of four arbitration years, was the Nationals lone All-Star in a season in which they surprisingly finished 80-81. The lockdown set-up man combined with closer Drew Storen to form one of the most formidable back-end bullpen pairs in the National League.
At 26, Clippard was one of the best eighth-inning man in the NL, an All-Star who wound up vulturing a win for the NL in the mid-summer classic despite facing just one batter and failing to retire him. It was a mere moment of ineffectiveness sandwiched between a season filled with dominance.
Three years since the Nationals converted him to a reliever, Clippard pitched in more high-leverage situations than any reliever in the National League excepting Atlanta’s Jonny Venters and his ERA, 1.83, was the lowest among relievers with 72 or more appearances last season.
The precedent for Clippard’s arbitration case wasn’t exactly plentiful given his success in the set-up role and without the save stat as a glaring number to help his cause. The Nationals faced a somewhat similar situation with left-hander Sean Burnett last offseason when they went into the arbitration process with their best reliever from the previous season. The two sides then worked out a two-year extension to buy out Burnett’s remaining arbitration years for $3.95 million with a $3.5 million mutual option for 2013.
Several comparable relievers to Clippard went through the arbitration process this year as well. The Yankees’ David Robertson made a reported $1.65 million with $15,000 in performance bonuses. The Atlanta Braves’ Eric O’Flaherty came to terms on Monday for $2.49 million. Clippard made $443,000 in 2011. It’s fair to speculate that his 2012 deal will fall in the same range as those of Robertson and O’Flaherty.