Joe Nathan Rumors
The Blue Jays are aggressively seeking an experienced closer through free agency or trade, reports ESPN's Buster Olney. Olney says the Jays have discussed free agents Heath Bell, Jonathan Papelbon, and Joe Nathan, as well as trade target Andrew Bailey of the Athletics.
Padres GM Josh Byrnes said last month he's likely to offer arbitration to Bell, a Type A free agent. Bell prefers to stay in San Diego, and he said in August he'll accept arbitration if offered. Should he change his mind and decline, he'd be an unlikely fit for Toronto for at least two reasons: the closer prefers the West Coast, and the Jays would have to give the Padres their 17th overall pick in next year's draft. The cost to sign Bell would be reduced to the Jays' second-rounder if they are to commit the #17 pick to another team by signing a higher-ranked Type A. Only Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, C.J. Wilson, David Ortiz, and Ryan Madson are ranked higher than Bell. For a closer look at Bell's performance this year, check out Alex Steers McCrum's article at CloserNews.
Signing Papelbon would hurt the division rival Red Sox in the short-term, though the Sox would get that #17 pick as a valuable consolation prize. Nathan is a more reasonable free agent target for Toronto, as they can offer a chance to close and contend and he won't cost a draft pick to sign. Bailey would require a bigger commitment -- multiple well-regarded prospects -- as the A's control him through 2015.
The latest Twins rumors, courtesy of ESPN 1500's Phil Mackey...
- Joe Nathan's top priority is to pitch for a winning team next year, preferably as the closer. Last week Nathan's agent said his client seeks a closing job. "Money won't be the driving force" for Nathan, writes Mackey. Mackey says Nathan has strong interest in returning to the Twins, who definitely have openings at the back end of their bullpen.
- Mackey hears that Michael Cuddyer will "listen attentively to all interested parties," even if the Twins make the best offer. The Twins maintain interest in Jason Kubel as well. At the least, I expect they'll offer arbitration to both of them later this month.
- Mackey's hunch says to keep an eye on Clint Barmes, Kelly Shoppach, and Ryan Doumit as potential free agent targets. I ranked Barmes 35th among free agents on Monday, predicting the Twins as his new team. Make your picks for Barmes and 49 other free agents by Sunday night for the chance to win cash and baseball-related prizes and bragging rights. Over 3,000 people have entered so far.
- There's a very good chance the Twins will non-tender righty Kevin Slowey, wrote MLB.com's Rhett Bollinger on Monday.
- The Twins' 2012 payroll is expected to decrease slightly, leaving $20-25MM to spend, wrote Bollinger on Saturday.
- View MLBTR's projected salaries for Slowey and the Twins' other four arbitration eligibles here, and read Ben Nicholson-Smith's offseason outlook for the team here.
On this day three years ago, the Phillies sewed up a World Series title by finishing off the Rays in the resumption of a rain-suspended Game 5. Here's an item regarding that Philly team's shortstop, and a few others from around the NL East ...
- Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins tells CSNPhilly.com that he expects the Phils to make him an offer before he officially hits free agency (video link), though he's not sure what the terms of that offer might be.
- Nationals GM Mike Rizzo thinks his club can contend for the NL East title in 2012 with the addition of an outfield bat and a starting pitcher, according to Bill Ladson of MLB.com. Washington might also pursue Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder, opines Ladson, as the Nats have made "no promises" to Adam LaRoche.
- Closer Joe Nathan, whose $12MM 2012 option was declined this week by the Twins, said the Mets will be on his radar during his foray into free agency, according to Greg Logan of Newsday. Nathan is a New York native and attended Stony Brook University on Long Island.
- Marlins president David Samson said Florida plans to have a busy but prudent offseason and raise its payroll in 2012, according to Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. "We're going to be very aggressive, but we're not going to be foolish. That's the key. When you raise your payroll, you've got to do it smartly, because if you don't, you are losing 90 games at a higher payroll." Frisaro speculates the Marlins' payroll will be roughly $85MM in 2012, which would be a $27MM increase from 2011's $58MM.
Joe Nathan's agent Dave Pepe says his client is excited about free agency and seeks a closer job in 2012, tweets SI's Jon Heyman. Nathan is apparently not interested in an eighth inning gig after dominating as the Twins' closer from 2004-09.
Yesterday the Twins made the obvious call of declining Nathan's $12.5MM club option, but they have interest in re-signing the righty. The Twins can offer him a chance to close, but the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Marlins, Mets, Phillies, and Cubs could be in the market as well.
Nathan, 36, had Tommy John surgery in March of 2010, returning this year to mixed results. He had some issues with the longball at times, but his peripherals were solid. For fantasy baseball analysis on Nathan, check out Dan Mennella's latest at CloserNews.
The Twins announced today that they've declined their club option on reliever Joe Nathan. The option was worth $12.5MM, but the team will pay a $2MM buyout. GM Bill Smith said, "I spoke with Joe and his agent this morning, and expressed our interest in re-signing Joe. We will remain in contact with them as we move forward into the free agent process."
Nathan signed a four-year contract extension for $47MM in March of 2008, and the total remains the record for a reliever. Nathan, 36, had been dominant as the Twins' closer from 2004-09, racking up a 1.87 ERA, 11.1 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 0.6 HR/9, and 246 saves in 418 2/3 innings. He had Tommy John surgery in March of 2010, returning this year to mixed results. Further removed from the surgery, he'll be a popular free agent target on a one-year deal.
The upcoming class of free agents figures to present an interesting study in the way teams are evaluating relievers these days. After Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, many of the most recognizable names are closers or relievers who have previously closed.
Modern analysis suggests it's foolish to invest heavily in relief pitchers due to their limited contributions and volatility in year-to-year production. But someone has to get those crucial late-inning outs, and the temptation for a team that thinks it's a contender to throw a lot of money at a guy who's coming off a year in which he posted a minuscule ERA or eye-popping strikeout rate is often too great.
Undoubtedly, suitors will use a variety of criteria to evaluate free-agent closers, one of which will be usage. Because usage can encompass so many things -- innings, appearances, pitches, "high-stress" pitches, and so on -- it's tough to say which is the most accurate reflection of a pitcher's workload; of course, this debate continues on for starters, too.
During the season, with the launch of CloserNews.com, we began keeping an eye on relievers who had pitched on three (and four) consecutive days, as that seems to be the breaking point for when most relievers must be rested. We've tallied that up here in a spreadsheet, along with a few other measures (standard and otherwise) of reliever usage, for the upcoming class of free-agent closers.
The objective here isn't to make any bold proclamations based on who threw the most innings; I may as well pen the inevitable mea culpa right now if it were. Rather, there are some interesting tidbits of note here, a few things to file away as these relievers ready themselves for free agency and teams prepare to bid.
- Heath Bell and Francisco Cordero were the only two of this group to pitch on four consecutive days in 2011. Bell is the only one to do it twice.
- Bell's abundance of pitches certainly seems to correspond with his dip in strikeout rate (7.32 K/9 in 2011 vs. 9.22 for career). Looks like he was having trouble putting away hitters, at least relative to his past performances.
- Francisco Rodriguez paced the group by pitching on three consecutive days six times.
- Heavy usage is not unusual for K-Rod, though. He's pitched fewer than 65 innings only once in his nine full big league seasons, the red herring due to an off-field incident in 2010.
- Info was culled from Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference.
Twins general manager Bill Smith answered questions from Minnesota’s season ticket holders on a conference call tonight and Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune has the details on what we should expect from the club this offseason:
- The Twins are looking for starting pitching, bullpen help and a backup catcher who can contribute offensively.
- It’s unlikely that Smith will try to re-sign Jim Thome, who collected his 600th career home run with the Twins before finishing the season in Cleveland.
- Even if the Twins don’t pick up Joe Nathan’s $12.5MM option for 2012, they’re interested in bringing him back next year. The right-hander has expressed a willingness to stay in the Minnesota organization.
- Though they’ll consider internal shortstop candidates such as Alexi Casilla, Trevor Plouffe and Tsuyoshi Nishioka, the Twins could acquire a shortstop from outside of the organization.
- The Twins have had some talks with prospective free agent Michael Cuddyer and hope to re-sign him. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes examined Cuddyer's free agent stock last month.
The Twins finish the season with 99 losses, their most since 1982, and will officially select second in next year’s draft. Here's a sampling of links from the AL Central on the night that Minnesota avoided loss #100:
- Twins manager Ron Gardenhire told Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com that he'd like to have free agents Michael Cuddyer and Joe Nathan back in 2012 (Twitter links). MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes examined Cuddyer's free agent stock earlier in the month.
- The Indians announced that Sandy Alomar Jr. will become the club's bench coach in 2012. Tim Tolman, who was Manny Acta's bench coach this year, will transition into another role because of health reasons.
- White Sox GM Kenny Williams told Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times that he "absolutely" has a preferred candidate to succeed Ozzie Guillen as manager. Alomar Jr., Rays bench coach Dave Martinez and even Red Sox manager Terry Francona are candidates for the job, according to Van Schouwen.
- The White Sox wanted Logan Morrison from the Marlins for Guillen, according to Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald. Chicago relented because the Marlins were prepared to offer Bobby Valentine the job if they didn't get Guillen (Twitter link).
MLB.com's Rhett Bollinger covered a few hot stove topics in his recent Twins mailbag piece, and here are some of the highlights....
- GM Bill Smith "has indicated the club is going to try to sign at least one of" free agents Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel. The latest Elias rankings show Cuddyer is a Type A free agent and Kubel is a Type B, so Cuddyer could net the Twins an extra draft pick if they let him walk.
- There has been no talk of reducing the Twins' $113MM payroll from last season. In his look at the team's arbitration-eligible players, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes speculated that Minnesota could have up to $30MM to spend this winter if it planned to stay at the $113MM figure. That would be more than enough to sign both Kubel and Cuddyer if the team so desired.
- That money could also be spent on a high-profile free agent, though Bollinger notes that isn't the Twins' style. He believes that besides Kubel or Cuddyer, the club will focus on infield depth and rebuilding the bullpen.
- Joe Nathan "has expressed a willingness to remain with the organization" and we heard last week that the Twins were also interested in keeping Nathan in the fold. This would likely require signing Nathan to a new free agent contract, since the Twins will almost surely decline Nathan's $12MM option for 2012.
- Minnesota will probably keep Tsuyoshi Nishioka and have him compete with Trevor Plouffe for the shortstop job next season. Bollinger notes that Nishioka's experience at both short and second base would make him a good candidate as a utilityman.
SI's Jon Heyman leads his latest column with a discussion of the Albert Pujols situation, which is due to flare up once the season ends. Heyman's sources say the Cardinals are "not overly confident" about retaining Pujols. Heyman hears the Cardinals are not inclined to increase their offer much from nine years and around $210MM, although the SI writer thinks the team could reduce the number of years to boost the average annual value past the $23MM range. Heyman hears Pujols is "not overly thrilled" that the Cardinals' offer last winter wouldn't place him in the top ten among MLB player salaries, though by my count there are only five players currently averaging $23MM or more as their AAV.
Heyman has plenty more musings on the Pujols topic in the column; here are a few other highlights...
- The Pirates intend to extend the contract of GM Neal Huntington. He says the Bucs have waited for the draft and trade deadlines to pass. Huntington was hired four years ago.
- "There are some who could see" Rangers ace C.J. Wilson "wanting to go to his native Southern California." Heyman views the Angels as a threat for Wilson.
- Heyman says Angels people suggest they would have been willing to resume extension talks with Jered Weaver next year if they hadn't reached a deal by the team's deadline this year.
- The Twins are interested in re-signing reliever Joe Nathan, though they won't be picking up his $12MM option.