PHOENIX — Reliever Tyler Clippard agreed Monday to a $12.25 million, two-year contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The deal with the right-hander, who turns 31 on Sunday, adds a late-game option for the Diamondbacks, who expect to be a contender after boosting their rotation by signing Zack Greinke and acquiring Shelby Miller in a trade with Atlanta.
Clippard was 5-4 wth a 2.92 ERA last year with the Oakland Athletics and New York Mets, holding batters to a .186 average, 10th-best in the majors. He was even better with runners in scoring position at .133.
He spent most of his nine-year major league career as setup man for the Washington Nationals and could fill the same role behind Arizona closer Brad Ziegler. Right-hander Daniel Hudson and left-hander Andrew Chafin are the other late-game options for Diamondbacks manager Chip Hale.
Arizona general manager Dave Stewart said the Diamondbacks first looked internally to fill the late-inning needs.
"After further consideration, we started to look a little bit more at the free-agent market," Stewart explained during a telephone conference call. "With everything else we’ve done this year, we felt that a pitcher that had been in those roles, has done the job, has a track record of doing the job, was the direction to go."
Clippard is the only pitcher to appear in at least 69 big league games each of the last six seasons. He leads all relievers in that span with 34 wins, 440 games and 464 1/3 innings.
Clippard has a 42-29 career record with a 2.88 ERA, with 612 strikeouts in 562 innings. He was an All-Star with the Nationals in 2011 and 2014.
The Mets acquired Clippard from Oakland for minor league pitcher Casey Meisner.
Clippard had a terrific start in his time with the Mets but faded late in the season. He had a 6.14 ERA in September and allowed five runs in 6 2-3 innings in the post-season.
The struggles didn’t concern Stewart.
"We’ve done our research," he said, "and we do know that he was used often in the first part of the season, which can wear a guy down at the end of the year."
Stewart said he thinks the Diamondbacks have enough bullpen depth to prevent anyone from being overused.
The general manager said Hudson, a starter before two Tommy John operations, will remain in the bullpen after doing "a very, very good job" primarily in the setup role last season.
Stewart identified seven pitchers who pretty much have bullpen jobs sewn up — Clippard, Ziegler, Hudson, Chafin, Randall Delgado and Josh Collmenter. That leaves only one or two spots opwn ehen spring training begins.
Stewart said the salary money saved in dealing Aaron Hill to Milwaukee was extremely helpful in getting the Clippard deal done. Arizona saved $5.5 million of the $12 million it owed Hill but acquired shortstop Jean Segura, who will make $2.6 million this year.