The Tigers announced on Tuesday that they’ve declined their $10MM option on right-hander Joe Nathan and added pitching prospect Luis Cessa to the 40-man roster. Nathan, who underwent Tommy John earlier this year, will receive a $1MM buyout. Nathan said back in April that he planned to undergo the lengthy rehabilitation process that came with the surgery with the goal of again pitching in the Major Leagues.
Nathan was a high-profile signing by now-former Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski prior to the 2014 season. Detroit signed the longtime Twins closer to a two-year, $20MM contract in spite of his advanced age, but Nathan was unable to replicate the All-Star form that he showed with the Twins or with the Rangers. Nathan posted a 4.81 ERA in his age-39 season in 2014 and pitched just one-third of an inning in 2015 before going down with a torn tendon and ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. The 40-year-old seems like a candidate for a minor league deal this winter, but he could conceivably wait to sign until midseason, when he’s further along in his rehab, in hopes of securing a big league deal.
As for Cessa, the 23-year-old was one of two right-handed pitching prospects acquired from the Mets in exchange for Yoenis Cespedes. (Michael Fulmer was the other.) Cessa would’ve been Rule 5 eligible this winter and needed to be added to the 40-man roster in order to be protected, so it was only a matter of time as to when his contract was selected by the Tigers. Cessa split his age-23 season between the Double-A and Triple-A levels, logging a 4.52 ERA with 7.7 K/9 against 2.3 BB/9 in 139 1/3 innings. He currently ranks sixth among Tigers farmhands, per MLB.com.