Not too bad at all. It still doesn’t sound like an exact number, but Ken Rosenthal has reported that Joe Nathan’s new two-year deal with the Detroit Tigers is “in the $20 million range”.
Source: Nathan deal with #Tigers is in $20M range for two years.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 3, 2013
I had guessed something more like $13 million per year (and feared $15 million), based on the MLB Trade Rumors estimate, so a $10 million AAV makes me like this deal a lot.
The Tigers will be paying Nathan to produce something like 3.3 WAR over the next two seasons (or about 1.7 WAR per year). A relatively high number for a reliever, but not a number that is unattainable for one of the better closers in the game.
According to FanGraphs, Nathan has failed to hit 1.8 WAR twice in the last nine years. Once in 2010 when he missed the season due to elbow surgery, and once in 2011, his first year back. The Baseball-Reference valuations are similar. He was worth 4.3 WAR (FanGraphs) and 5.1 WAR (Baseball-Referece) over the last two seasons (2012 and 2013).
No contract is ever a slam dunk – especially for a pitcher with a previous arm surgery – but this one is safe enough that I’d be willing to call it a win for the Tigers for now. They actually paid for his pitching ability, not so much his save total, and I applaud that.