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— 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.
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