Last winter the Detroit Tigers were in need of a closer, so they went out and signed 39-year old Joe Nathan, who was coming off back to back all-star seasons with the Texas Rangers. Nathan had 80 saves and an average 2.09 ERA in two seasons with Texas. Many fans agreed with this move because Nathan was one of the league’s top closers at the time, and many were familiar with him because he spent seven years with AL Central Division rival Minnesota Twins.
However, he struggled last season and preformed nowhere near what he did two seasons prior. Nathan posted a horrific 4.81 ERA last season and blew a countless number of saves along with being booed off the field numerous times. Manager Brad Ausmus still rolled with him as closer, however, despite those facts. So lets fast forward to earlier this month when Nathan was booed off the field during a bad outing in spring training. The question has presented itself. Will he lose his job a closer? Many think that he will lose his job, including ESPN’s Eric Karabell who thinks Nathan will lose it before the month of April is over.
The obvious replacement would be of course Jokiam Soria, who also ironically has closing experience with the Texas Rangers. Another option would be Bruce Rondon who missed all of last season due to Tommy John surgery. Soria’s experience is a great cushion along with Rondon’s hard throwing arm, so at least the Tigers wouldn’t have to go out and get somebody. Either way, it would not be a good thing if either men were replacing Nathan, because that would mean the Tigers would be spending $10 million on him and he wouldn’t even be closing.
That is the worst case scenario though.
The best case scenario is that Nathan comes out this year and proves that despite being 40 he can still perform as closer. ESPN’s fantasy projections for Nathan are 40 saves with a 3.43 ERA. That wouldn’t be too bad, but I am sure its still not what the fans want to see, they want to see more of what he did in Texas.
The Tigers have a team option in his contract for next year. The only way I see that option could be picked up is if he puts up huge numbers this year and doesn’t lose his job closing. Nonetheless it should be an interesting first month to see how Nathan’s mechanics are. Hopefully he does well this year and no changes will have to be made. Still its okay to be a bit skeptical about Nathan lasting the entire season as closer. I for one, am not entirely sure he will.
What do you think Nation?
(Image Via: Jason Epstein, National Review)