Tigers reach 2-year deal with Joe Nathan
Hours after the Tigers freed up more money on their payroll and promised they weren’t done dealing, they went about spending some of it on a closer. The reigning American League Central champions have an agreement with Joe Nathan on a reported two-year contract worth $20 million, and will introduce their new closer at a 3:30pm press conference at Comerica Park.
Jon Heyman of MLB Network and CBSSports.com reported a two-year deal in the works Tuesday after FOXSports.com reported the two sides nearing an agreement. The move addresses the top priority Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski took into the offseason, and kept at the top after trading Prince Fielder to Texas two weeks ago and Doug Fister to Washington Monday night.
“We hope to get a closer and we’re still trying to do that,” Dombrowski said Monday night, “so that will be our number one need and it’ll continue to be until we find someone.”
That didn’t take long. The Tigers had their share of candidates on the open market, topped by Nathan and Brian Wilson, but a slow-moving segment of free agency. The market finally came together Tuesday, with Wilson reportedly in talks to re-sign with the Dodgers. The Tigers had been in discussions with Wilson, MLB.com learned, before those talks broke off Monday.
Interest in Nathan included a recruiting pitch from Torii Hunter, his Twins teammate from 2004 to 2007. Hunter, not surprisingly, was ecstatic about the news.
“We needed him,” Hunter wrote Tuesday in a text message to MLB.com. “I had to sell the vision of winning it all to him.”
If a proven closer was the goal, Nathan is the guy. He has saved 340 games over the last 10 years and owns 341 saves over s 13-year Major League career. The vast majority of those saves came with the Minnesota Twins during their reign over the Tigers atop the AL Central.
Nathan has never blown a save against the Tigers, going 36-for-36 in his opportunities while allowing just 33 hits over 62 2/3 innings with 23 walks and 75 strikeouts. For that matter, Nathan has converted 90 percent of his save chances over his career, the highest conversion rate of any Major League pitcher with at least 200 career saves, just ahead of Mariano Rivera.
Just as important, at age 38, his statistics remained strong. He allowed 10 runs on 36 hits over 64 2/3 innings with 22 walks and 73 strikeouts for the Texas Rangers this past season, racking up 43 saves in the process.
Nathan pitched three consecutive days on four different occasions this past season, and pitched four days in a row twice down the stretch. The one restriction the Rangers had on him was that he rarely pitched multiple innings in a game.