The ever-changing nature of the A’s roster continued Wednesday, as recently acquired shortstop Yunel Escobar was dealt to the Washington Nationals for right-handed reliever Tyler Clippard.
Escobar’s tenure with Oakland lasted all of four days. He came over from Tampa Bay on Saturday along with fellow infielder Ben Zobrist. It appeared those two might form Oakland’s new double-play combo. Not to be, as Escobar is off to the nation’s capital and Clippard – a two-time All-Star setup man – will don green and gold.
A few things we can glean from the A’s ninth (yes, ninth!) trade of the offseason:
-- It appears they indeed have confidence in Marcus Semien being their starting shortstop. General manager Billy Beane declared upon acquiring Semien in December that he would get a crack as the everyday shortstop. That idea seemed in doubt with the addition of Escobar. But, unless there’s another move for a shortstop coming down the pike, Semien will get his shot.
(Relevant sidenote: It’s known that Escobar wasn’t thrilled when the A’s tried to acquire him in past seasons. But Beane said upon the trade with the Rays on Saturday that he’d spoken with Escobar’s agent and that there didn’t appear to be any issues on that front.)
Beane had mentioned Saturday that Semien might slide into a utility role due to Escobar’s presence. But Semien, the Bay Area native and former Cal standout, now appears lined up for his shot to team with second baseman Zobrist as Oakland’s double-play combo. How productive Semien is in his first shot to be a regular major league shortstop will factor big in the A’s fortunes this season.
-- A stacked bullpen is still a big priority for the A’s. It had gone somewhat under the radar this winter that Oakland hadn’t added a replacement for right-handed setup man Luke Gregerson, who signed with Houston as a free agent. But the A’s have acquired a crucial piece in Clippard, who posted a 2.18 ERA in 75 games last season. He held right-handed batters to a .130 batting average and a .197 on-base percentage. He’s a fly-ball pitcher who would appear to be heading to the right home ballpark in O.co Coliseum.
Clippard, who turns 30 on Valentine’s Day, is a fastball-changeup pitcher who effectively added a splitter to his repertoire last season. He’s also got closer experience, having posted 32 saves in 2012 with Washington. It’s hard to imagine Sean Doolittle being uprooted as the closer, but Clippard gives A’s manager Bob Melvin a great option on days that Doolittle needs a rest. Ryan Cook and Dan Otero are also solid late-inning options from the right side. But Otero carried a heavy load last year and could probably use more rest. Cook battled injuries and mechanical issues. Clippard’s addition is a needed boost for the ‘pen.
[RELATED: A's position-by-position breakdown: Bullpen]
-- The happiest person over Wednesday’s trade might just be Eric Sogard. With Zobrist and Escobar both in the mix, Sogard seemed to be on the outside looking in for a 25-man roster spot. But with Escobar being shipped out, Sogard would appear to have a great shot at nailing down at least a utility infielder role.
Nine trades completed and five weeks left before spring training. Can the A’s crack double figures by the time camp arrives?
Don’t bet against it.