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Why Free-Agent Closer Joe Nathan and Detroit Tigers Are a Perfect Fit

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Why Free-Agent Closer Joe Nathan and Detroit Tigers Are a Perfect Fit
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The Detroit Tigers may look to Joe Nathan to solve their closer issues for the 2014 MLB season and beyond.

According to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports, there is mutual interest between the two parties:

Nathan turned in another dominant season for the Texas Rangers in 2013, saving 43 of his 46 opportunities while posting a 1.39 ERA and 0.90 WHIP in 67 appearances.

Arguably one of the top closers in the game, Nathan has actually been getting better over the past three years.

Joe Nathan Stats (2011-13)
Year GP SV/BLSV ERA WHIP
2011 48 14/3 4.84 1.16
2012 66 37/3 2.80 1.06
2013 67 43/3 1.39 0.90

Baseball-Reference

It's been incredible to see the way Nathan has improved, especially considering that he is nearing the end of his career.

Nathan has improved with age like a fine wine, but there's no denying that he will eventually decline. The Tigers are hoping that that decline won't hit for another couple of years.

The Tigers are in desperate need of a reliable closer.

The team had six different pitchers convert saves this season, with the best being Joaquin Benoit. However, Benoit is a free agent. The Tigers clearly either don't trust him enough to use him as their closer next season or think he won't be with the team next season, as they are actively pursuing Nathan, according to Morosi.

The deeper into the pairing you look, the more it makes sense.

The Tigers are trying to win now. The team is not building for the future, and is instead attempting to finally win a World Series right now after making it to the ALCS in each of the last three seasons and to one World Series.

Nathan wouldn't be a feasible option for the team after the next two seasons, as he will turn 41 in November after the 2015 MLB season. However, he's ready and able to close for the Tigers now.

The Tigers are made for the here and now as well.

The best four pitchers for the Tigers are Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister and Anibal Sanchez, who will all be 30 years old or older next season. The team's lineup is then led by Victor Martinez, Torii Hunter, Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera, who will range from 30 to 35 years old next year.

There are very few young stars in Detroit, and signing a young closer simply wouldn't make sense.

Jon Paul Morosi then brought up three more points as to why Nathan will be a great fit in Detroit:

Nathan is familiar with the Tigers, having opposed them often during his seven seasons in Minnesota. If he chooses Detroit, it will be for the same reasons Torii Hunter — Nathan’s longtime Twins teammate — cited when he joined the Tigers almost exactly one year ago: Nathan, like Hunter, has made many All-Star and postseason appearances but wants to go where he’s never been: the World Series.

The Tigers aren’t averse to signing closers of advanced baseball age. Also under current club president/general manager Dave Dombrowski, they paid Todd Jones a total of $18 million to fill that role in his age 38, 39 and 40 seasons.

The Tigers would rather sign Nathan than face him; Nathan has a career 1.44 ERA against Detroit and more saves (36) than against any opponent other than the Kansas City Royals.

Morosi brings up a lot of good points, but he forgets one huge one: Nathan's success in Comerica Park.

Nathan has pitched in Detroit a total of 25 times in his career. He's had a lot of experience pitching in Detroit, and the park has favored him.

Joe Nathan Career Stats by Stadium
Stadium GP SV/BLSV ERA WHIP
Comerica Park 25 19 1.52 0.93
Other 689 322 2.78 1.11

Baseball-Reference

As you can see from his numbers, Nathan has been terrific when pitching in Detroit. While some of that stems from his success against the Tigers as a team, there's no denying that he has the ability to pitch well in Detroit.

The Tigers and Nathan look like a match made in heaven.

The two sides seem destined for success, and Detroit may finally win the World Series it's been looking for if he is finishing games for them.

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