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Yankees 2016 Potential Free Agent Target: Tyler Clippard

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Should the Yankees have a reunion with Tyler Clippard?

Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

2015 Statistics: 71 IP, 8.11 K/9, 3.93 BB/9, 2.92 ERA, 4.28 FIP

2016 Age: 31

Position: Right-handed reliever

Tyler Clippard was drafted by the Yankees in the ninth round of the 2003 draft. He worked his way through the Yankees' system as a starting pitcher before he finally made his major league debut in 2007. Through 27 innings pitched between six starts in the majors that year, Clippard posted a 6.38 ERA. Over the offseason, the Yankees traded him to Nationals for reliever Jonathan Albaladejo. That move didn't exactly pay dividends for the Yankees, though Albaladejo did get a World Series ring out of it. Meanwhile, the Nationals converted Clippard from a starter to a reliever and he experienced success out of the bullpen once he finally stuck in the majors. During his seven years with the Nationals, Clippard averaged 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings, and kept his FIP below 4.00 for five consecutive seasons.

Following the 2014 season, the Nationals traded Clippard to the Athletics for Yunel Escobar. With Sean Doolittle on the disabled list, Clippard took over the role of closer. He recorded 17 saves with a 2.79 ERA before being traded to the Mets just before the deadline. He was not quite as sharp in the second half of the season, and particularly struggled in September and October when opponents hit .259/.323/.536 against him. Things didn't improve in the postseason when he gave up five earned runs through six and two-thirds innings pitched. Between 2014 and 2015, Clippard's strikeout numbers dropped from 10.49 to 8.11 K/9. His walk percentage also rose from 8.3% to 10.3%. His career ground ball percentage is just 27.9% compared to a flyball percentage of 56.6%, so Yankee Stadium might not be a good fit.

Then again, Brian Cashman has already said that the Yankees are most likely to improve the team through trades than free agent signings, so it doesn't seem that the Yankees would be interested in signing Clippard either way. There are several holes to fill in the bullpen at the moment after the Yankees traded Adam Warren and Justin Wilson, but Clippard will likely end up with a contract worth at least $8 million a year for three to four years and that is outside of the Yankees' budget, apparently. If the Yankees are serious about getting younger (and the trade for Starlin Castro indicates that they are), then Clippard might just be too old at 31. Although Cashman said that we can expect more to happen during the offseason, and that he would focus on improving pitching, the Yankees could always just fill the newly created bullpen holes with internal options. There is also still the option of trading Brett Gardner or Andrew Miller for some young talent. It sounds like Clippard might end up re-signing with the Mets, but it's safe to say that wherever he ends up, it won't be with the Yankees.