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Joe Nathan Rumors
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.
In an attempt to compensate for the looming loss of Nelson Cruz to his 50-game suspension, the Rangers tried to swing a big trade for Justin Upton at the July trade deadline, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports. The Braves refused a package of Matt Garza, Joe Nathan and David Murphy. If those are the only three players the Rangers offered, it's not a surprise that the Braves passed — Garza and Murphy are eligible for free agency after the season, while Upton is a good young player who is under contract through 2015. Eventually, of course, the Rangers acquired Alex Rios in August. Here are more notes from around the Majors.
- The Athletics clinched their second AL West title in a row with an 11-7 win over the Twins on Sunday, and GM Billy Beane says the team's depth has been the key to their smooth season, John Hickey of InsideBayArea.com reports. "We knew going in this was the deepest roster we’d ever had here," says Beane. "We needed that depth, and it paid for itself." As Hickey points out, the Athletics hardly missed a beat all season, even though Brett Anderson, Josh Reddick, John Jaso and Derek Norris all missed significant time. Here are more notes from around the Majors. A quietly brilliant season from Josh Donaldson surely helped, but the A's got solid offensive and defensive performances from most of their hitters, and other than Anderson, their starting rotation mostly stayed healthy.
- After taking in the ceremony for Mariano Rivera and the applause for Andy Pettitte on Sunday, it dawned on injured Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter that he had played his final game with his two retiring teammates, Andy McCullough of the Star Ledger reports. "I’m going to miss them a lot," says Jeter. "These guys have been brothers to me. We’ve been through quite a bit together. Pretty much everything you can experience on a field. In my whole professional career, I’ve been playing with at least one of them." The three had their rookie seasons together with the 1995 Yankees, and Jeter and Pettitte also played on many of the same minor-league teams, including Class A Greensboro in 1992 and and Triple-A Columbus in 1994 and 1995.
- Pitcher Dan Haren thinks the Nationals should aim to keep their team together, writes MLB.com's Andrew Simon. "Last year they had a great year and this year we’ve shown a lot of fight here the last few months. I think as close as things could stay to the guys in this room, I think the better," Haren says. He also appears to support bench coach Randy Knorr for the Nationals' managerial position, which will be open when Davey Johnson retires after the season. Haren himself is a free agent, of course, and he seems aware that he might not be part of the 2014 Nationals, even if they ultimately go with a similar roster: "I know there’ll be some subtle changes, me probably being one of them."
- Now that the Phillies have settled on Ryne Sandberg as their manager, they'll now turn their attention to their coaching staff, MLB.com's Todd Zolecki reports. With a new manager, it's typical to have at least some change in the rest of the coaching staff. Zolecki mentions that one potential change might be re-hiring former manager Larry Bowa in some capacity.
- A "winter of discontent" is on the way for Phillies fans, writes Bob Ford of the Inquirer. After a recent streak of successful seasons, Ford says, a team elsewhere might "get a standing ovation and then be allowed to attempt its rebuilding with patient if not fervent support. That might be the case here as well, if only the team would get on with the rebuilding." Instead, the Phils will head into the offseason expecting to keep aging veterans Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Cliff Lee. They might also go into 2014 with Carlos Ruiz still at catcher, and perhaps also with Roy Halladay in the rotation. Ford compares the Phillies to a rock band who are still touring long past the point where they've lost relevance, "dyeing their hair and wearing hearing aids."
After finishing his 55th game of the season, Rangers closer Joe Nathan is now entitled to void the $9.5MM option that Texas would otherwise hold for 2014, reports T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com. If Nathan elects to exercise the contract provision, he will sacrifice the right to a $750k buyout and become a free agent. Nathan is represented by Dave Pepe of Pro Agents, Inc.
Though he is now capable of taking bids on the open market, Nathan says that he hopes to stay in Arlington for the foreseeable future. "The only reason to have that incentive in play is to have a little bit of power in getting a multiyear deal," Nathan explained. "Other than that, I'm just glad to get to that point and have it over and done with."
The 38-year-old has been stellar during his time in Texas. After posting 37 saves in 2012, Nathan has picked up 39 more this year and carries a 1.53 ERA over 58 2/3 innings. Though he has failed to repeat the incredible 6.00 K:BB ratio he posted last year, Nathan is still working at a 3.10 K:BB clip, fanning ten batters per nine innings, and holding opposing hitters to a .168 average.
Rangers assistant GM Thad Levine declined to discuss Nathan's future. He said that the club has "not had any discussions on our class of free agents," while noting that "Joe is prominent among them." Though the contending Rangers surely want a solid late-inning option for 2014, the team does have two other established closing options under contract in Joakim Soria and Neftali Feliz.
As Tim Britton of the Providence Journal writes, it's been 10 years since the strangest week of Brandon Lyon's life. In 2003, the then-23-year-old Lyon was dealt by the Red Sox to the Pirates as part of a pacakage for lefty Scott Sauerbeck. The Pirates decided they weren't comfortable with the state of Lyon's elbow and sent him back to the Red Sox in a trade centering around Freddy Sanchez and Jeff Suppan just nine days later. Now with the Red Sox once again, Lyon tells Britton that he hopes to be with the big league club in the near future. Here's more on the AL East…
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that as of Sunday, the Yankees had yet to receive a single trade offer for struggling right-hander Phil Hughes. That's fairly surprising, given Hughes' solid production away from Yankee Stadium (3.02 ERA in 53 2/3 innings compared to 6.02 in 58 1/3 innings at home).
- Yankees GM Brian Cashman feels that there may be more offense on its way to New York via the trade market before Wednesday's deadline, writes MLB.com's Bryan Hoch.
- The Red Sox are no longer in the mix for Joe Nathan, according to Rob Bradford of WEEI.com, but they're still prioritizing right-handed relief help. The Red Sox remain in contact with the Phillies about Michael Young but find the asking price for Cliff Lee too high, according to Bradford. The same goes for Jake Peavy of the White Sox.
- Alex Speier of WEEI.com takes a look at how the Red Sox stack up in terms of starting pitching, right-handed relief and third base options.