Age on Opening Day 2014: 29
How acquired: Trade with New York Yankees, Dec. 2007
2014 salary: TBD via arbitration (Clippard is seeking $6.35 million, Nats are offering $4.45 million)
2013 Stats: 72 G, 6 GF, 71.0 IP, 37 H, 19 R, 19 ER, 9 HR, 24 BB, 73 K, 0.859 WHIP, 6-3, 2.41 ERA, 3.82 FIP, 0.4 WAR
2014 storyline: Tyler Clippard has been among the Nationals' most reliable players for five seasons now, regardless of position. After failing early in his career as a starter, he's found the perfect role as setup man and has become among the best of his kind in baseball. Because of that, it's a little bit easier to project his 2014 season than some of his teammates.
The Nationals like Clippard exactly where he is, so unless there is a complete disaster at closer it's unlikely we'll see him moved from the eight inning spot. One situation to watch, however, is how he pitches in the context of his contract. Clippard is under team control through 2015 and can be a free agent in two years. After this season the Nationals will be one year away from making a decision about his future. How Clippard performs this season could determine whether his future holds an extension, trade or simply a big contract year in 2015.
Best-case scenario: Clippard had a very good season in 2013, but there is still room for improvement. A best-case scenario would probably resemble his 2011 campaign when he held a 1.83 ERA across 88 1/3 innings. He was an All-Star that season and held an 0.838 WHIP. Even if Clippard isn't quite that good, he'll be one of the most important weapons for Matt Williams this season.
Worst-case scenario: The biggest concern with Clippard is his workload, as problems in the Nats' bullpen late in recent seasons have forced him to log extra innings. Three of the last four years have seen Clippard lead Nationals pitchers in appearances. A worst-case scenario would probably involve all that catching up to him and an ERA heading north of 4.00. He's been so good lately that only injuries would seem to slow him down.
Most-likely scenario: Barring something unforeseen, Clippard figures to have another good season as a centerpiece of the Nationals' bullpen. He'll likely make around 73 appearances, pitch 75 innings and hold an ERA just under 3.00. He has cut down on strikeouts each of the last three years, so look for Clippard to continue to improve at getting guys out by contact.