Why Joe Nathan is the Perfect Mariano Rivera Heir for the Yankees

Josh SchochAnalyst IIINovember 20, 2013

Jul 16, 2013; Flushing, NY, USA; American League pitcher Joe Nathan (36) of the Texas Rangers hugs pitcher Mariano Rivera (42) of the New York Yankees after the 2013 All Star Game at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees' search to replace Mariano Rivera will next turn to former Texas Rangers closer Joe Nathan.

According to Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News, the Yankees have interest in Nathan and will likely pursue him after addressing some of their other needs first:

Source: Yankees have interest in Joe Nathan, but working on more pressing needs (Beltran, McCann) before things such as bullpen help.

— Mark Feinsand (@FeinsandNYDN) November 20, 2013

The Yankees need to find a way to replace the best closer in the history of the game, and Nathan might be the perfect fit.

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 24:  Joe Nathan #36 of the Texas Rangers throws against the Houston Astros in the 9th inning at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on September 24, 2013 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

After undergoing Tommy John surgery in March 2010, Nathan missed the entire 2010 season. He came back to pitch for the Minnesota Twins in 2011, but he dealt with injuries and made just 48 appearances, which was his lowest since 2002.

He had a rough time of it when he was making those appearances as well, posting a 4.84 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP while converting just 14 of his 17 save opportunities (for 82.35 percent).

However, Nathan used the 2011-12 offseason to get back to his old ways, and the Rangers signed him to a two-year, $14.5 million deal.

That move turned out to be one of the best for the Rangers in recent years, as Nathan has been nothing short of a star in Texas.

ARLINGTON, TX - JULY 23:  Joe Nathan #36 of the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on July 23, 2013 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

He has been elected to the last two American League All-Star teams, which gives him six during his career. The soon-to-be 39-year-old has been dominant over the past two years. He's fully worked his way back from Tommy John surgery, and he's given no indication of slowing down.

Joe Nathan Stats (2011-13)

After seeing Nathan put up such impressive numbers over the past two seasons, teams are interested in signing him to a short-term deal, and the Yankees are among them.

Nathan would fit in perfectly for what the Yankees are trying to do.

The Yankees missed the postseason for just the second time in 19 years this season. It was a very disappointing year, but the team is trying to right the ship quickly.

New York wants to win now and avoid missing the playoffs for back-to-back seasons for the first time in almost two decades.

The team will be built to make a deep run in the postseason if it is able to sign Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann to address its two biggest needs, as Feinsand suggests.

Nathan is in a similar position. He is built to win now but not so much in the future.

Realistically, he has about a year or two left in the majors before he retires or begins to struggle, but the Yankees should take advantage of him while he's still effective.

Signing Nathan for a year or two could also set them up to find a long-term option at closer, such as David Robertson.

BALTIMORE, MD - OCTOBER 08:  David Robertson #30 of the New York Yankees pitches in the eighth inning during Game Two of the American League Division Series against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on October 8, 2012 in Baltimore, Mary
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

While Robertson may have struggled when he pitched as a closer this year, he has what it takes to finish games for the Yankees in the near future. Nathan could be a short-term option for the team while it waits for Robertson.

Nathan has also proved that he can handle the AL East teams that he would be facing on a regular basis as New York's closer.

Considering that four of the top 11 offenses in baseball (No. 1, No. 5, No. 9 and No. 11) are in the AL East, it could be hard for a new pitcher to come in and find success against the Yankees' rivals.

Joe Nathan vs. AL East Stats
vs. AL East6-3562.091.04

However, as you can see from the table, Nathan has not had a problem pitching against the Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles, Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays in the past.

In fact, he has put up even better numbers against those four teams than he has against MLB as a whole over the course of his career.

The Yankees desperately need a closer, and Nathan looks like one of their best bets.