The Cleveland Indians are staying active trying to find steals in the free agent market as spring training has begun and the first game of the preseason scheduled for Saturday.
On Wednesday, the team agreed with former two-time All-Star reliever Tyler Clippard on a minor-league contract that won’t be announced until he passes a physical. The deal will pay him $1.75 million if he makes the major league roster with $1 million in potential bonuses if he reaches incentives.
The 34-year-old right hander has bounced around baseball during his twelve-year career with the Washington Nationals being his longest tenured team spending 2008 from 2014 with them.
Clippard has also been with the Yankees on two stints, the Athletics, Mets, Diamondbacks, White Sox, Astros and most recently the Blue Jays.
Last season for Toronto, he appeared in 73 games and pitched 68.2 innings with a record of 4-3 with 7 saves and a 3.67 ERA. He struck out 85 batters (11.1 per 9 innings) while walking 23 but he also gave up a career high 13 home runs.
In 698 career appearances, he has a 52-46 record with 68 saves, a 3.16 ERA and a 1.127 WHIP. He has finished 186 games and struck out 841 batters in 754 innings pitched.
Over his career, he has held batters to a .199 average with a .283 OBP and .637 OPS. Left-handed hitters go .192 at the plate against him while right-handed hitters go .205 against him.
MLBTradeRumors.com had this to say about Clippard
Interestingly, Clippard has become an even more extreme pitcher than he was in his heyday. The 34-year-old worked at a healthy 14.3% swinging-strike rate and carried 11.1 K/9 against 3.0 BB/9. He also carried a 19.2% groundball rate last year, the lowest rate in all of baseball. Clippard still knows how to get hitters to chase and whiff on his change-up. The question remains what happens with his high heaters.
In each of the past three seasons, more than 12 percent of the balls put in the air against Clippard have ended up leaving the yard, breaking a string of six-straight years with a HR/FB rate of less than ten percent. As a result, Clippard has surrendered 33 dingers over his past 192 innings — a boost in long ball frequency that maps to a reduction in his average four-seam velocity.
On the other hand, Clippard did still bounce back to a well-above-average 16.3% infield fly rate, allowing him to rack up easy outs. When he keeps the ball in the yard, Clippard remains awfully tough to touch. In fact, he allowed earned runs in only five contests last year in which he did not also surrender a home run.
The Indians love to take chances on these kind of players by giving them minor league deals because it doesn’t really effect them financially and it’s a low-risk, high-reward situation.
They already signed Alex Wilson to a similar deal a couple of weeks ago and have added former Mariners pitcher Nick Wittgren and former Nationals pitcher Jefry Rodriguez during the offseason.
They’ll all be competing with Dan Otero, Neil Ramirez and Tyler Olson for bullpen spots during spring training as it would be assumed that Brad Hand, Oliver Perez and Adam Cimber have spots locked down heading into 2019.
If Clippard does make the roster out of camp, he could be line to be the setup man for Hand who has already been named the team’s closer.