According to Jon Morosi and his famed sources, the Detroit Tigers and free agent closer Joe Nathan are becoming quite fond of one another.
Sources: Mutual interest has developed already between Tigers and free agent closer Joe Nathan. Nathan has Detroit high on his wish list.
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) November 11, 2013
We saw a similar thing last year from the Tigers and Torii Hunter. Veteran free agents that both (1) want a chance to win a ring and (2) like teams who give veteran free agents lots of money have been somewhat active in courting the Tigers. The Tigers and Hunter didn’t achieve their mutual goal of winning a ring, but Hunter got his two year, $26 million deal and the Tigers solidified a previously weak position. Nathan and the Tigers could develop a similarly symbiotic relationship this offseason.
MLB Trade Rumors profiled Nathan back in October and predicted that he’d bring in something on the order of two years and $24 million.
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.
A $13 million average annual value would be a hefty sum for a relief pitcher, but I don’t think the Tigers want to leave the bullpen up to chance, especially with Joaquin Benoit being a free agent and Drew Smyly possibly moving to the rotation (if they trade a starter).
Nathan will turn 39 later this month, but he’s put up ERAs and FIPs at-or-below 2.80 in each of the last two seasons with the Texas Rangers, including a 1.39 ERA last year. It’s not my preference to see the Tigers pony up huge dollars for relievers, but the rest of the team is more or less taken care of (with the exception of second base) so I don’t really care as long as it’s not hurting their long-term ability to spend money and build a team.