Why mess with what’s working? Tyler Clippard is 32-for-35 saving games since taking over as the Nationals’ closer in late May. However, manager Davey Johnson announced Friday that he’d have Clippard and Drew Storen share save opportunities going forward.
“The fact is, I told [pitching coach Steve McCatty] that I have confidence in both of them closing,” Johnson said. “And depending on the rest situation, or depending on what I think is the matchup, either one of them could be going eighth, the other one going ninth.”
Storen saved 43 games for the Nationals last year and was slated to keep the job this season, but he missed the first half because of elbow problems. Since returning on July 19, he has a 2.59 ERA in 24 1/3 innings. He picked up his third save in three opportunities on Thursday.
Clippard, meanwhile, has struggled some of late, giving up runs in four of his last seven appearances. He hasn’t taken any blown saves during that span, but he has lost twice. His season ERA stands at 3.22.
Given than Storen and Clippard are both right-handers and there’s no platoon advantage to be gained by playing matchups, sticking with the status quo would seem to make sense here. Alternatively, if they think Storen is the better bet of the two, just make him the closer. It’s probably better that both pitchers actually know their roles than that they spend the sixth and seventh innings wondering who is going to get the call first.
According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa declined to attend the team’s annual Winterfest because of his dissatisfaction with management following their trade for outfielder Adam Eaton.
A source told Castillo that Espinosa’s unhappiness stemmed from a belief that the acquisition would jeopardize his starting role in 2017. With Eaton in center field, Trea Turner will likely return to his post at shortstop, leaving Espinosa out in the cold — or, as the case may be, on the bench. The move shouldn’t come as a big surprise to Espinosa, however, as Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo spoke to the possibility of trading the infielder or reassigning him to a utility role back in early November.
Offensively, the 29-year-old had a down year in 2016, slashing just .209/.306/.378 with 24 home runs in 601 PA. Defensively, he still profiles among the top shortstops in the National League, with eight DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and 8.3 Def (Defensive Runs Above Average) in his seventh year with the club.
Espinosa will reach free agency after the 2017 season.
The Red Sox might be trying to move the wrong pitcher, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Cafardo revealed that while the Sox have been trying to market right-hander Clay Buchholz, more teams would be interested in trades involving southpaw Drew Pomeranz.
The club appears reluctant to deal Pomeranz, especially because his price tag comes in at a cool $4.7 million to Buchholz’s $13.5 million in 2017. Those who have already expressed interest in the veteran hurlers, including the Twins, Mariners and Royals, also seem put off by Buchholz’s salary requirements as he enters his 32nd year.
Health could be another factor preventing teams from jumping to make trade offers, as Cafardo quotes an AL executive who believes the “medicals on both Pomeranz and Buchholz probably aren’t that great.” Neither pitcher suffered any major injuries during the 2016 season, though Pomeranz missed just over a week of play due to forearm soreness.
Pomeranz outperformed his fellow starter in 2016, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and career-best 9.8 K/9 through 170 2/3 innings with the Padres and Red Sox. He got off to an exceptionally strong start in San Diego, where his ERA dropped to 2.47 through the first half of the year before the Padres dealt him to Boston for minor league right-hander Anderson Espinoza. Buchholz, on the other hand, struggled with a 4.78 ERA and saw a decline in both his BB/9 and K/9 rates as he worked out a career-low 1.69 K/BB through 139 1/3 innings with the Sox.