Yesterday it was announced that the Texas Rangers came to terms with former Twins closer Joe Nathan. The deal was for 2 years with $7 million annually. There also was a team option for 2014.
$7 million dollars is a lot of money to pay a closer, it's especially a lot for a closer who's 37 years old and who had a down year after coming off of Tommy John Surgery. In 44 games last year Joe Nathan was worthe a wopping 0 WAR. That's right, 0 WAR. His ERA, FIP and xFIP were 4.84, 4.28 and 3.96. Not exactly good numbers. His 22.5 K% was 4.1% below career average but his BB% wasn't affected as a result. One thing that is concerning though was the spike in HR/9 that he gave up. For his career he gave up .86 HR/9 but this past year he gave up 1.41, not a number you want to see. Next season Bill James sees Nathan having a bounce back year, posting a 2.35 ERA and 2.97 FIP. While Nathan could do that I think it's more more reasonable to see an ERA north of 3.
Relievers are never a sure thing though. In 2011 the top 5 relievers were as follows:
Craig Kimbrel: 2.10 ERA, 1.52 FIP, 1.94 xFIP
Jonathan Papelbon: 2.94 ERA, 1.53 FIP, 2.16 xFIP
Sean Marshall: 2.26 ERA, 1.86 FIP, 2.50 xFIP
David Robertson: 1.08 ERA, 1.84 FIP, 2.46 xFIP
Mariano Rivera: 1.91 ERA, 2.19 FIP, 2.64 xFIP
Carlos Marmol: 2.55 ERA, 2.01 FIP, 2.83 xFIP
Brian Wilson: 1.81 ERA, 2.19 FIP, 2.85 xFIP
Heath Bell: 1.93 ERA, 2.05 FIP, 2.98 xFIP
Matt Belisle: 2.93 ERA, 2.68 FIP, 2.78 xFIP
Sean Marshall: 2.68 ERA, 2.28 FIP, 2.50 xFIP
Jonathan Broxton: 2.61 ERA, 1.97 FIP, 2.02 xFIP
Matt Thornton: 2.74 ERA, 2.46 FIP, 2.74 xFIP
Michael Wuertz: 2.63 ERA, 2.37 FIP, 2.57 xFIP
Andrew Bailey: 1.84 ERA, 2.56 FIP, 3.20 xFIP
Brian Wilson: 2.74 ERA, 2.50 FIP, 3.18 xFIP
I could keep going but as you can see the top 5 relief pitchers vary year by year for the most part. There are some pitchers that did repeat, in this 3 year span it was Brian Wilson and Sean Marshall. Nathan didn't even crack the top 5 in 2009 in 2011. I'll give him see leeway for 2011 but in 2009 he was totally healthy and didn't crack the top 10.
If the Rangers were that desperate for a closer they should have looked at other options. Some think Jonathan Broxton may be burnt out but on an incentive laden deal he probably would have been a much better option.
$14 million dollars is a ridiculous amount of money for a relief pitcher, especially a pitcher who performed as poorly as Nathan did last year. The Rangers pretty much expect Nathan to return to his early days as a Twin and I just don't think that's possible at this point. The one good thing that comes out of this situation is that Neftali Feliz will finally join the rotation.