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Joe Nathan Rumors
The Tigers and closer Joe Nathan are mutually interested in each other, as Nathan has Detroit "high on his wish list" of free agent destinations, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reports (via Twitter). MLBTR's Tim Dierkes predicted Nathan would sign with the Tigers this winter and indeed the two sides seem like natural fits.
Detroit is eager to find a solution to its closing issues, and they're one of the few teams that could afford to give a multiyear deal worth a projected $26MM to a closer who will be 39 years old on Opening Day. Still, that price could be worth it for Nathan, who fully recovered from Tommy John surgery in 2010 to post two elite seasons for the Rangers in 2012-13. No active pitcher has saved more games than Nathan (341), which helps him stay out in a free agent class that is crowded with late-game closing options.
Along with the Tigers, Dierkes projected the Yankees, Angels, Orioles and Indians as teams who could possibly vie for Nathan's services this offseason. The Orioles and Yankees have closing options already present in Jim Johnson and David Robertson, respectively, while it can be argued that the Tigers are closer to contention than the Indians or Angels, making them a more attractive landing spot for Nathan.
- Curtis Granderson has drawn "preliminary interest" from the Mets, two sources tell Martino, though the depth of that interest will depend on how Granderson's market develops. "When it comes to New York, this much is fair to say: [Granderson] is more likely to be a Met than a Yankee in 2014," Martino writes.
- Carlos Beltran "would love to come back to New York, but I think he’d like Boston, too,” a friend of the veteran slugger tells Martino. Both the Yankees and Red Sox have been rumored to be interested in Beltran's services.
- The Mets have considered Andre Ethier as a trade option since at least last December, while the Dodgers have been open to dealing the outfielder since at least summer of 2012, rival executives say. That timing is odd given that the Dodgers only signed Ethier to his current five-year, $85MM contract in June 2012. There is no chance, Martino writes, that the Mets would move Zack Wheeler or Noah Syndergaard for Ethier, though Martino speculates that the team could be more open to moving right-handed pitching prospect Rafael Montero.
- Kevin Youkilis "is 100% healthy" and recovered from back surgery, agent Joe Bick says.
- Joe Nathan is expected to draw strong interest this winter but agent Dave Pepe said he had "nothing to report" thus far about his client's free agency. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes predicts that Nathan will find a two-year, $26MM contract this offseason.
The Padres will look for a lefty reliever and a left-handed hitter this offseason, GM Josh Byrnes says (via ESPN's Jim Bowden on Twitter). In addition, the Padres hope to get better health from their players next season. The Padres have recently been connected to Mark Trumbo, who is right-handed. There are a few good lefty relief options on the free agent market, J.P. Howell, Manny Parra and former Padre Oliver Perez among them. Here are more notes from the West divisions.
- The Giants officially declined Ryan Vogelsong's 2014 option today, and while that doesn't mean he won't return, both sides are exploring other possibilities, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports. "I don’t think today necessarily eliminated the chances of him coming back," says assistant GM Bobby Evans. "But it does put a step back in the process, obviously, as he looks at other options. He could find something very appealing, or we could find something that doesn’t filter back to him." There are currently no talks between the two parties.
- After declining his end of a $9MM mutual option for 2014, Joe Nathan says he doesn't expect to be back with the Rangers, writes Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com. The veteran closer acknowledged that he's seeking a two-year deal and doesn't sense much interest from Texas. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes sees Nathan landing something in the neighborhood of a two-year, $26MM deal this winter.
- Major League Baseball intimated to Oakland Coliseum officials that they will help the Athletics move across the bay and play at the rival Giants' AT&T Park in San Francisco if they don't come to terms on a new short-term lease for the team, sources tell Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross of the San Francisco Chronicle. Coliseum brass are pushing for a long-term lease renewal, while the A's want some flexibility in the event that they can get a ballpark deal done in San Jose.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
Free agents are not allowed to negotiate with all 30 MLB clubs until 11:01 pm (CT) Monday, but agent Scott Boras says his phone was ringing off the hook regarding Jacoby Ellsbury and Stephen Drew within hours of the Red Sox winning the World Series, reports Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. The Yankees will be the most interesting team during free agency, according to Cafardo, but will be hamstrung until a decision is made on Alex Rodriguez's appeal. Cafardo also lists the Phillies, Tigers, Giants, Orioles, Blue Jays, and Rangers as active participants in the free agent market. In other tidbits from his Sunday Baseball Notes column:
- Both LA teams are interested in acquiring David Price from the Rays. The Angels may have a slight edge because they can put together package with bats like Mark Trumbo and Howie Kendrick while the Dodgers have an overstocked rotation.
- Joe Nathan should be of interest to both the Tigers and Yankees even though the latter seems to have settled on David Robertson as Mariano Rivera's replacement.
- There may be no better time for the Red Sox to trade John Lackey than right now.
- The Red Sox may consider re-signing Joel Hanrahan after he recovers from Tommy John surgery to provide protection for incumbent closer Koji Uehara.
- Franklin Gutierrez, whose $7.5MM club option was declined by the Mariners, is an intriguing player who can still perform at a high level when healthy. Staying healthy has been an issue for Gutierrez with six trips to the disabled list in the last four years.
- Johan Santana, whose $25MM club option was declined by the Mets, is another pretty good low-cost gamble.
We learned yesterday that Rangers closer Joe Nathan had voided his 2014 option. The $9MM club option became voidable upon Nathan's 55th finished game of the year. Because Texas technically exercised its option, it will not have to pay Nathan a $750k buyout. Here's more on the situation …
- The Rangers will not make Nathan a $14MM+ qualifying offer, tweets CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman. If that holds true, of course, Nathan will be able to seek a multi-year deal without asking suitors to give up a top draft pick to sign him. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes has predicted a two-year, $26MM pact for the soon-to-be 39-year-old.
- Texas GM Jon Daniels certainly sounds like he is — as expected — prepared to move on from Nathan's successful tenure at the back of the team's pen. As Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports, Daniels says he told Nathan and agent Dave Pepe "that if he came back, we'd have to consider trading from our bullpen." And as reported by Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest, Daniels conveyed his "expectation [that] there are other teams that maybe have a bigger need in the bullpen and put more resources towards it than we are."
- Unsurprisingly, with Nathan hitting the open market, the Rangers anticipate an internal replacement. Daniels says he "expect[s] our closer to be someone who is already in the organization." With in-house options like Neftali Feliz, Joakim Soria, and Tanner Scheppers, Daniels says the club "probably won't name [a closer] until spring training to see how things play out."
Nathan may be turning 39 years old in three weeks, but he definitely isn't showing his age. The active Major League leader in saves (once Mariano Rivera's retirement paperwork is officially filed), Nathan compiled a microscopic 1.39 ERA with 10.2 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 in 64 2/3 innings, adding another 43 saves to his outstanding resume.
Going by his 297 ERA+, 2013 was the best season of Nathan's historic career. SInce taking over as the Twins closer in 2004 at age 29, Nathan has a 2.14 ERA with a brilliant 4.21 K/BB ratio in 592 1/3 innings and 341 saves. He earned $7MM this season in the second season of a two-year, $14.75MM contract that he signed with the Rangers prior to the 2012 season, though he will forfeit $750K of that guarantee, as he won't be paid the buyout on his option.
Nathan will headline a stacked class of relievers that got even stronger today when the Tigers surprisingly declined their $3.25MM option on Jose Veras. In addition to Nathan and Veras, Fernando Rodney, Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit, Edward Mujica and Chris Perez are all available on the free agent market. In his free agent profile of Nathan, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes predicted a two-year, $26MM contract, noting that win-now teams like the Tigers and Yankees should be interested in Nathan this winter.
Joe Nathan wants to continue pitching for the Rangers, but he understands it might not be possible if he wants a two-year deal, Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com reports. "I know they have a surplus of arms in the bullpen and I know the business side of it," says Nathan. "You’re trying to get as much money as you can to strengthen your club, so they may want to spend that money somewhere else. They have some work to do to piece some holes together." The Rangers have a one-year, $9MM team option on Nathan, although Nathan has the right to void it; even that might not be the best use of resources for the Rangers, who will be trying to address a variety of needs (catchers and the outfield, in particular) with a limited budget. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.
- Yankees GM Brian Cashman says he will congratulate Red Sox GM Ben Cherington at the Winter Meetings in December, Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News reports. Cashman says he texted Cherington before the World Series, adding, "I was rooting for them and thought they were the team to beat." Cashman notes, however, that the stress of the offseason means that Cherington won't have much time to enjoy his organization's accomplishment. "As GM, you don’t have time to enjoy it long," says Cashman. "The work starts again right away."
- The Tigers interviewed Padres bench coach Rick Renteria for their manager position today, writes John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press. CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reported earlier this week that Renteria would interview. Renteria worked in the Marlins system when current Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski was GM there. The Tigers have also interviewed their own hitting coach, Lloyd McClendon, along with Dodgers third base coach Tim Wallach and Padres executive Brad Ausmus.
Nolan Ryan accomplished a lot of good for the Rangers during his tenure as the club's president and CEO, but his retirement may also be a positive, CBS Sports' Danny Knobler writes. The Hall-of-Famer's departure will eliminate any tension that existed in upper management between Ryan and GM Jon Daniels, and Daniels knows he now has full reign over baseball decisions.
Here's the latest out of Arlington…
- The Rangers expect Joe Nathan to void their $9.5MM club option on his services for 2014 and the club will consider other internal closing options, MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan reports. While Daniels didn't fully close the door on re-signing Nathan, his recent comments about not committing major dollars to the bullpen seems to hint that Texas could move on from the veteran closer. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes recently profiled Nathan's free agency case and predicted Nathan would fetch a deal in the two-year, $26MM range this offseason.
- Also from Sullivan, he opines that former Rangers Mike Napoli and Jarrod Saltalamacchia could be targeted for returns to the club. Texas is looking for a right-handed bat and for a new catcher this offseason.
- Earlier today on MLBTR, Charlie Wilmoth spotlighted the Rangers in the most recent edition of our Offseason Outlook series.
Only a legendary reliever could post a 1.39 ERA that isn't even his career-best. Joe Nathan did just that for the Rangers in 2013, proving he's still elite at age 38. After finishing 62 games in 2012 and 61 in '13, Nathan earned the right to void a $9MM club option and become a free agent, which he's expected to do.
With Mariano Rivera's retirement, Nathan ranks first on the active career saves leaderboard with 341. That number ties him for tenth all-time with Rollie Fingers, and Nathan can reasonably ascend to sixth all-time by the end of a two-year contract. He became a full-time reliever in 2003, posting a 2.24 ERA and 3.94 K/BB ratio in 671 1/3 innings since then. Nathan, who spent the bulk of his career with the Twins, has racked up six All-Star nods. He's saved at least 37 games in eight different seasons. His career save percentage is 90.0, the best in baseball history for anyone with at least 200 saves. Nathan has been one of the best relievers of the entire save era.
Nathan had Tommy John surgery in March 2010, and his final year with the Twins in '11 was a consolidation year as he returned from the procedure. From 2012-13 for the Rangers, he posted a 2.09 ERA, 10.5 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 6.3 H/9, and 0.63 HR/9 in 129 regular season innings. He made the All-Star team both years, saving 80 games in total. Among relievers with 100 innings during that time, his ERA ranks seventh. Only four pitchers saved more games.
Outside of the elbow surgery, Nathan has rarely been injured, consistently pitching at least 64 innings per year.
Qualifying offers for relievers figure to remain rare, though Nathan has a chance at one. Most likely, the Rangers won't risk a potential $14.1MM commitment and won't make the offer.
Nathan will pitch at age 39 next year. Outside of Rivera, who is in a class by himself, there have been only seven instances since 1980 of pitcher age 39 or older saving 30 games in a season. Dennis Eckersley did it twice, and Trevor Hoffman did it three times. I explained above that Nathan is a legendary closer in his own right, so he belongs with those names, but it will still be a risky multiyear commitment at significant dollars. Agent Dave Pepe can counter the age concerns by pointing out that his client is a workout fanatic.
Nathan walked 3.1 batters per nine innings this year, his worst rate since '03. He walked over four per nine in the second half, even with a strong September finish. It might be nothing more than a blip, but the increased walk rate is worth considering.
Nathan's groundball rate this year was just 32%. It may seem like nitpicking, as Nathan surrendered only two home runs in his 64 2/3 innings. However, most relievers with a groundball rate similar to Nathan's allowed around one home run per nine innings, as Nathan did in 2012. Home run prevention is one area in which we should not expect Nathan to be elite moving forward.
Nathan, his wife, and two children reside in Knoxville, Tennessee. He graduated from SUNY-Stony Brook in '97 with a degree in business management. Known for his intelligence, Nathan will receive an honorary doctorate from the university in December. His hobbies include golf and playing the guitar.
Though he committed two years to a 37-year-old Nathan coming off his worst season, Rangers GM Jon Daniels told reporters this month that giving multiple years to relievers has never been the team's preference, and the situation was different that offseason. While a return to the Rangers can't be ruled out, it seems the Rangers might choose to allocate their resources toward other players and save some money in the ninth inning.
Nathan projects as a closer on a large-market, win-now team. The Yankees, Tigers, and perhaps the Angels might be the only teams that fit that criteria and aren't locked in at closer. The Dodgers or Red Sox could work, but both clubs would have to demote relievers coming off dominant seasons. The Orioles or Indians could enter the mix, non-tendering or trading Jim Johnson or Chris Perez given arbitration projections in the $11MM and $9MM ranges for their closers, respectively. Pepe could face a situation similar to that of Rafael Soriano, whose market was limited by his price tag. Eventually, Scott Boras leveraged his ownership connections to land two separate big-money mid-January contracts for Soriano, even though the closer came with a draft pick cost attached.
Nathan will be voiding his option in search of a multiyear deal, but three years is difficult to picture given his age. Rivera's two-year, $30MM deal signed after the 2010 season is Nathan's ceiling. Soriano's two-year, $28MM pact could be another point of reference, though that contract has heavy deferrals and a vesting option, and covers the pitcher's age 33-34 seasons. Ultimately I think Nathan will sign a two-year, $26MM deal with a club option for 2016.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
4:25pm: MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan, who was also in attendance, writes that Daniels and his staff are wary of committing to closer Joe Nathan on a multiyear deal: "That has never been our preference … to invest big money in the bullpen," Daniels said.
Nathan can void the $9.5MM club option on his contract and is expected to do so in search of a multiyear deal. He's coming off perhaps the best season of his outstanding career, having posted a 1.39 ERA with 10.2 K/9, 3.1 BB/9 and 43 saves in 64 2/3 innings. Nathan's ERA+ of 297 is the best single-season mark of his career.
Daniels stated that he's glad to have signed Nathan and will continue to discuss the possibility of retaining his closer with his staff.
4:15pm: Rangers GM Jon Daniels addressed the media following his team's loss to the Rays in Game 163 and indicated that he expects to make a qualiying offer to impending free agent Nelson Cruz. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, who was on-hand for the press conference, quotes Daniels:
"We’re going to need corner run production. We’re going to need power. Obviously, Nellie’s been a source of that here for the last few years. The first order of business we’ll have to decide is whether we extend the qualifying offer to him. I would expect we will."
Texas will have until five days after the World Series ends to formally extend a qualifying offer to Cruz, who batted .266/.327/.506 with 27 homers in just 456 plate appearances in 2013. Cruz, of course, was suspended for 50 games as well due to his involvement with the Biogenesis PED scandal. The Rangers welcomed him back to the team for Game 163, and each side has expressed mutual interest in a return in 2014.
A qualifying offer this season is expected to be worth $14MM, which would represent a significant increase in Cruz's $10MM salary from 2013. It's also a steep price to pay for a player who hasn't exceeded two wins above replacement in any of the past three seasons due to defesive limitations and a below-average walk rate. Should Cruz decline the offer, the Rangers would receive a compensatory draft pick were he to sign elsewhere.