The Texas Rangers made a move we expected them to make last season. Ron Washington decided to move closer Neftali Feliz to the starting rotation and then they signed veteran closer Joe Nathan.
Nathan is 37 as he enters the 2012 season, the 12th season of his career. He came on strong for Minnesota last season after regaining his closer role and finished with 14 saves and a terrible 4.84 ERA. The Rangers inked him for two years and an option for a third year when Nathan will proudly turn 40.
While Nathan was one of the best in the game before 2010, since his elbow surgery he hasn't been the same. His velocity has dropped and his ability to spot his pitches has declined. This could be from both age and the surgery.
Even worse, he's going to Texas, where hot summers mean home runs. In 2011, Nathan was hit harder (.222 batting average) by opponents than any other season where he pitched over 20 games (51 points higher than 2009). Now that may be a low batting average, but the signs are telling that he just isn't the same closer as he was in 2009. His K/9 also dropped from well above nine to below nine.
Nathan will be a serviceable closer for the Rangers and he will get plenty of save chances. However, I wouldn't put too much stock into him. He's old, coming off injury and playing for Texas. His stuff isn't dominating anymore and that could prove to be a problem for a pitcher who made a living off of telling hitters, "Here's my fastball. Now hit it."
2012 Fantasy Draft Analysis
Drafting Nathan is not a problem, but don't pass up on better closers just to get the big name. Remember, C.J. Wilson is gone and Feliz is taking a shot at the rotation. The Rangers are a weird team who you can't trust. Personally, I'd let someone else deal with Nathan and get a more reliable younger closer myself.