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Astros trade rumors: Tyler Clippard nearly acquired from Nationals over offseason

This past winter, the Houston Astros were close to acquiring Nationals reliever Tyler Clippard, who ended up being traded to Oakland. Here's why that matters.

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Tyler Clippard was almost traded from the Nationals to the Houston Astros, according to Joel Sherman. The Washington reliever ended up being traded to the A's for Yunel Escobar back in January.

The Astros bullpen had a league-worst mark of 4.80 last season, so it's no shock that they were looking anywhere and everywhere for bullpen help.  Instead of acquiring Clippard from the Nats, the Astros turned to the free agent pool and grabbed two guys: one with setup experience in Luke Gregerson and one who had a breakout 2014 campaign in Pat Neshek.

How has it worked out for the Astros?

The decision to bring in Gregerson and Neshek for around $6 million per year has paid dividends so far. The Astros are 34-27, the surprise of the American League and they sit atop the American League West standings.

One the biggest reasons? Their improving bullpen. That league-worst mark last year has been turned around to the tune of a 2.86 bullpen ERA, good enough for 5th best in all of baseball.

What about the A's?

The A's don't feel too bad about their decision either.  With their closer Sean Doolittle on the shelf with a left shoulder strain, having Clippard to fill that role has been important to say the least. (though one might question the value of a closer on a team more than 10 games under .500. -ed.)

While the A's haven't been doing too well at 24-37 and haunt the cellar of the AL West, Clippard has at least been stable at the back end. In 25.1 innings, he has a 3.20 ERA and leads the team with 9 saves. Only one other A's pitcher has recorded a save this season.

Could Clippard still find himself in Houston?

Obviously if the Astros were interested in Clippard before the season, some interest might still be there after the year he is having. With the A's slipping, Clippard has been atop lists as trade candidate, especially as a secondary closer option for those who miss out on top closers like Jonathan Papelbon or Francisco Rodriguez.

This speculation here, but perhaps the Astros could feel that they need another back end piece for their bullpen -- considering its importance to the team, not to mention the most recent example of the Royals riding a stellar pen all the way to the World Series --  to make sure guys like Chad Qualls and Neshek don't get burnt out as the season wears on? Who knows. There was interest once. The Astros are great. The A's are bad. Clippard is pitching well.  Houston could build on a strength and just go all-out. The two could absolutely be linked again down the road.