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Transaction Oracle
— A Timely Look at Transactions as They Happen

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Rangers - SIgn Joe Nathan

Texas Rangers signed DSA Joe Nathan to a 2 year/$14.5 million contract. ($7 million in each of 2012 and 2013, club option of $9 million with a $.5 million buyout for 2014)

What an interesting signing. There’s no reason to expect to see the brilliance of 2004 to 2009 (ERA of 1.87, 11.1 strikeouts per 9 innings pitched and a 4.3 strikeout to walk ratio), but then that’s not what the Rangers are paying for. Nathan still has fine control and still gets nearly a strikeout per inning. Very few pitchers have those kind of numbers and few of that group are not successful.  He got off to an extremely rough start last year (his ERA was 7.63 at the end of May. Yes, ERA is a lousy way to judge a relief pitcher, but let’s face it there’s just no way a pitcher is doing his job with those numbers), and then missed the best part of a month, but after coming back he was—well not his old self, but a reasonable facsimile.

That is the pitcher the Rangers are paying for and assuming he stays healthy they will not regret paying for it.

Yes, there are reasons for concern. An awful lot of 36 year old pitchers are less successful at 37—even very good ones. His recent injury is also a potential issue—as Szym has noted injuries predict injuries. All in all I’d give this about a 60% chance of working out at least as well as the Rangers are hoping. If that sounds pessimistic, well that’s just years of looking at free agent signings.

What’s interesting about this signing is that it Texas had no hole at closer. The Rangers have chosen to take two moderate risks with a pretty healthy upside by shifting their current closer to the rotation. Neftali Feliz did in fact start quite a bit while in the minors—and was reasonably successful. That’s not to say that there’s no reason for concern about shifting him back. While he obviously has great stuff the decline in his strikeout rate and the increase in his walk rate are both worrying—though more in terms of the trend (as a friend says if you want a nice clear trend line it’s best to use only two points) than the absolute numbers.  He can be successful with 7.5 strikeouts per 9 innings pitched as long as the walks don’t get out of hand—and there’s no particular reason to expect that they will.

I think it’s best to think of the Nathan signing more in terms of signing a good starter at a very reasonable price. That’s the single most likely result and while either pitcher could fail (they are pitchers after all), the are not improbable upsides for both. Nathan could defy father time (with Feliz merely serviceable) or Feliz could be very successful ( with the bullpen—not necessarily Nathan—adequate or better). I’m sure they want to keep Mike Adams in his current role, but he’s a nice fall back position if Nathan can’t get the job done and Ogando and Feliz are succeeding as starters.

All things considered an intelligent use of their resources I think. And I like the overall plan.

Ron J Posted: November 22, 2011 at 03:39 PM | 5 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Bourbon Samurai in Asia Posted: November 22, 2011 at 05:53 PM (#3999490)
Doesn't seem like a great idea to me, but I guess Texas has plenty of money so it doesn't keep them from doing something else.
   2. TVerik, the gum-snappin' hairdresser Posted: November 22, 2011 at 06:14 PM (#3999513)
Or, if Nathan is great, they could choose to flip him for spare parts. I like the move as well.
   3. Craig in MN Posted: November 22, 2011 at 09:28 PM (#3999702)
Yes, there are reasons for concern. An awful lot of 36 year old pitchers are less successful at 37—even very good ones. His recent injury is also a potential issue—as Szym has noted injuries predict injuries. All in all I’d give this about a 60% chance of working out at least as well as the Rangers are hoping. If that sounds pessimistic, well that’s just years of looking at free agent signings.


Surgery aside, Nathan has less wear on his arm than a lot of relievers that are years younger. Not just because of the surgery & rehab layoff, but because he started pitching late and didn't rack up many innings. I seem to recall the surgeon saying something about how clean his arm was when he did the surgery. He might age better than others in a similar situation. It seems like a decent deal to me.
   4. Ray (RDP) Posted: November 27, 2011 at 06:12 PM (#4001617)
Was this really the market value for Nathan, though? It's way more than I thought he'd go for, recently off major surgery and with serious questions about whether he can still get the job done.
   5. Ron J Posted: November 27, 2011 at 07:25 PM (#4001645)
I was sort of surprised that he got two years and decent money. But on reflection ... I guess any team willing to consider him is already starting from the glass half full point of view if you know what I mean.

An awful lot of teams wouldn't have considered him for anything more than a trial, but they're simply not influencing what he could get.

I don't know for sure what the best offer for Nathan would have been had the Rangers not been interested, but this doesn't look out of line if you stipulate optimism about his health. As I said, the K rate is still good and his control is still there. I'm not clear who the Rangers were bidding against though. (The early move makes sense only if they're afraid that somebody else would make a competitive offer)

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