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Tyler Clippard has not been getting the job done for the Yankees

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The Yankees are in first place in the AL East with a two-game lead over the Red Sox. That’s good. That lead would be a couple of games bigger, though, if it wasn’t for the fact that they’ve lost a handful of games in the late innings recently. A big reason for that? Their setup man is not getting the job done.

Here’s Tyler Clippard‘s last five outings:

  • Last night: Clippard came into a tie game in the eighth, allowed two runners to reach, one of whom scored the go-ahead run for Oakland. The A’s went on to win in extra innings.
  • Tuesday: Clippard came into the game with a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the eighth and gave up the tying home run, the Angels went on to win in extra innings.
  • Monday: Clippard came into the game in which the Yankees led 3-2 in the seventh with two men on. He immediately gave up an RBI double, allowing the Angels to tie it up. He vultured the win after the Yankees scored two runs in the top of the eighth.
  • Last Friday: Clippard came in with a four-run lead in the eighth. He held it. The Yankees won.
  • A week ago Sunday: Clippard came in to a 2-2 game in the eighth, immediately gave up a homer to Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays won 3-2.

Summary: he’s come into the game with the Yankees either tied or in the lead five straight times. He’s blown the lead twice, once lucking into a win, once with the Yankees losing. He’s given up the go ahead run in ties twice, with the Yankees losing both games. Once he had an easy job, protecting a big cushion. Overall, he’s tossed four and a third innings, giving up four hits, two walks and three earned runs and he’s allowed an inherited runner to score.

I suspect it’s gonna be a close race in the AL East all year. If you’re in a close race you have to win close games. If your setup man is doing what Clippard’s been doing lately, you’re not gonna win a ton of close games. And, eventually, your manager is going to start going to his closer earlier and earlier, risking burning him out.

Clippard needs to right the ship. Or else the Yankees are going to need to look to someone else to handle the seventh and eighth innings.

Indians trade Corey Kluber to the Texas Rangers

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The Cleveland Indians have traded two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber to the Texas Rangers. In exchange, Texas is sending center fielder Delino DeShields and pitcher Emmanuel Clase to the Indians. There are reports that the Indians will be getting more than just those two players, but no word yet. The deal is pending physical.

Kluber made only seven starts this past year thanks to a broken arm and a strained oblique muscle. When he did pitch he was no great shakes, posting a 5.80 ERA and 44 hits in 35.2 innings. Those were freak injuries that do not suggest long-term problems, however, so there’s a good reason to think he’ll bounce back to useful form, even if it’s a tough ask for him to return to the form that won him the 2014 and 2017 Cy Young Award.

Before his injury-wracked 2019 campaign, Kluber pitched over 200 innings in each of his previous five seasons so mileage could be an issue. For his career he’s 98-58 with a 3.16 ERA (134 ERA+), a 2.99 FIP, and a K/BB ratio of 1,461/292 over 1,341.2 innings in nine big league seasons.

Unless there is cash coming from Cleveland in the deal, the Rangers will be paying him $17.5 million this year and a 2021 option of $14 million pursuant to the five-year, $38.5 million contract he inked with Cleveland before the 2015 season.

DeShields, 27, is a career .246/.326/.342 hitter (76 OPS+) and that’s about how he performed in 2019 as well. He was demoted to Triple-A Nashville in May. Clase, who will turn 22 before next season, pitched 21 games, all but one in relief, for the Rangers in 2019 and will still be considered a rookie in 2020. He has been used mostly as a reliever in the minors as well.

Pending what else the Tribe is going to be getting, this appears to be a light return for a pitcher who, despite his 2019 injuries, should be expected to come back and be a workhorse. Unless there is some real talent coming back, in addition to DeShields and Clase, it would seem to be a salary dump for Cleveland and a steal for Texas. It is likewise perplexing how any of the many, many teams who could use starting pitching — the Angels and the Mets, among others, come to mind — could not top the package Texas offered.

As for the Indians, the commitment to Kluber for 2020-21 is $31.5 million if you exercise next year’s option, $18.5 million if you don’t. He’s one year and a freak injury removed from goin 20-7 with a 2.89 (150 ERA+), 0.991 WHIP, and 215 innings pitched. Cleveland is coming off 93 wins and should contend. Why you trade Kluber in that situation, regardless of the return, is a question they should have to answer to fans who expect to see winning baseball.