After a few trades that were met with mixed emotion by the Detroit Tigers fan base, GM Dave Dombrowski took to the free agent market and addressed the team’s biggest offseason need. Detroit came to terms with 39-year old closer Joe Nathan.
Reports are circulating that Nathan and the Tigers have agreed to a 2-year deal worth approximately $20M.
Most media outlets have confirmed that Brian Wilson was indeed the Tigers’ first choice as their closer-for-hire. Talks between the two parties broke down and that left the Tigers with Nathan, who is one heckuva consolation prize (and the guy I wanted to see all along).
Nathan, a long-time Tigers nemesis from his days with the Minnesota Twins will return to the AL Central after a two-year stint of pure domination for the Texas Rangers. Nathan missed the entire 2010 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He recuperated with the Twins in 2011 before moving to the Rangers for the ’12 and ’13 seasons.
In those two seasons with Texas, Nathan saved 80 games in 86 opportunities while striking out 151 hitters to just 35 walks covering 129 innings. Despite his elevated age, Nathan is truly an elite closer. A year ago he sported a 1.39 ERA and 0.90 WHIP. Like Torii Hunter before him, Nathan joins the Tigers hoping to win a World Series title.
Last year the Tigers flirted with Bruce Rondon, Phil Coke, and Jose Valverde as their 9th inning guy until finally settling on Joaquin Benoit. With Benoit now a free agent and better suited for an 8th inning role anyhow, the Tigers knew they had to grab a top of the line closer.
With Nathan in tow, the Tigers’ pen is currently still a mess, but looking like this:
Closer – Nathan
Righties – Bruce Rondon, Al Alburquerque, Luke Putkonen
Lefties – Phil Coke, Ian Krol
That’s only six guys. A 7th will be needed and preferably in the form of a legitimate right-handed setup man. Perhaps the Tigers can talk Benoit down off of his $10M asking price to return to his old job. Or maybe an Edward Mujica-type could be brought in. And seeing as how I have zero confidence in Coke and Krol is an unknown commodity, a lefty like JP Howell still makes an awful lot of sense for Detroit.
A closer of Nathan’s pedigree was priority #1 for the bullpen but there remains a substantial amount of work to do here.
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