Throughout the post season we joked that a large part of the Texas Rangers’ success was because of GM Jon Daniels purposely building a bullpen that was Ron Washington proof. He attained several good relievers throughout the season with clear roles that guarded against misuse. Unfortunately for Texas, not even the well designed plans of Daniels could compete with Washington’s questionable in-game decision making.
Now, with the Rangers once again dealing with the likely loss of their previous season’s best starting pitcher, Daniels has seemingly gone back to focusing on the bulllpen by acquiring former Minnesota Twins closer Joe Nathan, signing the free agent to a two year contract that guarantees him $14.5 million. The contract includes a $9 million club option for a third year.
However, in landing Nathan, the Rangers will bump their closer Neftali Feliz from his too rigidly defined bullpen role into the team’s starting rotation. It’s something of a stroke of genius. Thanks to last season’s reliever raid and bullpen stacking, with Nathan instead of Feliz, the Rangers will continue to have one of the deeper bullpens in the American League. The $7 million annually over the next two years that the team will pay Nathan is a ridiculously good bargain to ensure that a pitcher of Feliz’s quality is in the rotation.
Imagine how much the equivalent of Feliz would cost in the free agent starting pitcher market.
Of course, with any deal there is an element of risk. Nathan, a year removed from Tommy John surgery isn’t exactly a spring chicken. He’s 37 years old and his body is going to act that way on occasion. He spent a month on the Disabled List last season with an inflamed elbow and missed all of 2010 after his elbow surgery, but in addition to being one of the best relievers in baseball for going under the knife, Nathan put up promising numbers after his DL stint, striking out 28 batters in just over 29 innings while giving up only five walks. Opposing hitters got on base less than 24% of the time over that period.
Feliz, who is only 23 years old, didn’t have the same level of command last season as he’s exhibited previously. However, his four pitch repertoire and stamina as a Minor League starter suggests that he shouldn’t have too much difficulty adapting to his new role, which he now has several months for which to prepare himself.
While normally investing a guaranteed $14.5 million in an aged closer wouldn’t inspire much in the way of confidence or praise, I believe the move works extremely well in this instance. Nathan’s price tag is comparatively low to allow Feliz to move into the rotation and the Rangers are a team that will compete for the AL West title in 2012. A large chunk of the risk of signing a 37 year old closer is mitigated by bullpen depth that already includes Mike Adams and Koji Uehara. From here, the Rangers need to ensure that Darren Oliver or Mike Gonzalez stick around for another season and it looks to me as though the team should once again have one of the better pitching staffs in the American League.
And The Rest
The Texas Rangers might also be looking at bringing back Frank Francisco to fill out a bullpen spot. [MLB.com]
Free agent starting pitcher and the man that Neftali Feliz will presumably replace, C.J. Wilson, was set to have dinner with Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia and GM Jerry Dipoto last night. [L.A. Times]
Rumours are circulating that the Oakland A’s and Florida Marlins are working on a trade that would send lefty starter Gio Gonzalez to Miami in exchange for one or all of three Major League players, one of which is believed to be Logan Morrison. [Inside Sports]
Is Bobby Valentine bound for Boston? [The New York Times]
Mike Fast continues to reexamine whether or not a pitcher can influence their BABIP. [Baseball Prospectus]
Ryne Sandberg will again manage the Philadelphia Phillies Triple A team. [CSN Philly]
How old is Albert Pujols? No, really? [SB Nation]
The Baltimore Orioles have signed Korean submarine pitcher Tae-Hyon Chong for $3.2 million over two years. [Twitter]
The Philadelphia Phillies acquisition of Ty Wigginton won’t keep them from pursuing Michael Cuddyer. [Twitter]
Citizen’s Bank Park isn’t the band box that the Atlanta Braves commentators would lead you to believe. [The Good Phight]
Former Major Leaguer Eric Byrnes is keeping fit after his playing career. [Endurance Sport Examiner]
Could Sam Miller interest you in a Juan Gonzalez Hall of Fame brochure? [Baseball Prospectus]
And, in case you missed it yesterday: