The Texas Rangers have announced the signing of Joe Nathan, the longtime Minnesota Twins closer and former All-Star. The terms of the deal include two years with $14.5 million in salary, with a team option for 2014.
For Nathan's standards, 2011 was an off year, as he went 2-1 with a 4.84 ERA after coming off of Tommy John surgery and missing the 2010 season. His numbers were down across the board, and he was pulled from the closer job at one point during the season.
However, Nathan is now poised to regain the form he showed earlier in his career in Minnesota. He is now in line to become the closer for the Rangers in 2012, a decision that is sure to create a multitude of moves internally and outside of the organization, starting with the rotation.
Neftali Feliz will make his long-anticipated entry into the starting rotation, a move that has been heavily debated and sometimes criticized in many major media outlets. Feliz, who was a starter during his tenure as a minor leaguer, has released a statement in which he was informed by GM Jon Daniels and owner Nolan Ryan that he would be placed into the rotation.
Feliz will spend the next four months upping his conditioning and working on his secondary pitches that he was mostly unable to use during his two seasons as the Rangers' full-time closer.
The deal probably also signals the end of the CJ Wilson era in Texas. Wilson is reported to want somewhere in the area of six years, $120 million, figures that Texas will surely balk at when looking at a rotation that is set up to run Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, Feliz and Alexi Ogando to the hill.
Scott Feldman will now be fighting for his life as a starting pitcher, as manager Ron Washington and pitching coach Mike Maddux will most likely decide to open up the fifth starter spot for auditions in training camp.
The Yu Darvish project will probably be one approached with more caution, considering the club now has six starters competing for those five rotation spots. General manager Jon Daniels will surely wish that Darvish waits until next winter to be posted to the big league clubs.
On the farm, the Rangers can now let prized left-hander Martin Perez develop for another full season, potentially making him a September call-up and not a necessity for success.
The Nathan deal also allows for a little more flexibility in the free agent market, although Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols will probably be out of the Rangers' range and need. Think more of the Carlos Beltran type.
No matter what direction Texas decides to go in terms of the rest of their free agent and offseason plans, one thing is clear: Joe Nathan is the closer, and Neftali Feliz is a starter.
The other pieces are now set to fall where they may, and Daniels and Washington now have a full four months to put those pieces in their place.