Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Tigers Sign Joe Nathan to be Closer

It's been a busy week for the Tigers.  Yesterday, they traded starting pitcher Doug Fister to the Nationals in a four-player swap which angered much of the Tigers internet community.  Today, they have signed free agent closer Joe Nathan to a two-year contract, a deal which is being received better by Detroit fans. 

The downside to Nathan is that he recently turned 39 years old and doesn't throw as hard as he once did.  According to Brooks Baseball,  his average fastball has dropped from 96 to 93 since 2007 and he now throws almost as many sliders as four-seam fastballs.  The good news is that his results have not been affected much at all.

Pitching in a hitter's haven in Texas in 2013, he posted a 1.39 ERA (fourth in the American League), struck out 73 batters and allowed just two home runs in 64 2/3 innings.  He also finishing second in Win Probability Added (4.18) and fifth in RE24 (17.75), two numbers that take into account the situations in which relievers pitched. 

The best thing about Nathan is that he has been consistently dominant since 2003 other than missing 2010 due to Tommy John surgery and struggling to recover in 2011.  In fact, only three pitchers - Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman and Goose Gossage have higher lifetime WPAs than Nathan.  That is some impressive company. 

Despite Nathan's advanced age, I like this signing as he showing little indication of decline and was in my opinion the best free agent closer available.  The Tigers were also rumored to be interested in Brian Wilson and Grant Balfour, but Nathan has the more consistent track record. 

The Tigers greatest needs are now a set-up man and left fielder.  They may go cheap in the bullpen, but they are rumored to have interest in left-handed outfielder Shin-Soo Choo and switching hitting Carlos Beltran.  Former Tiger Curtis Granderson is also available.  There had been some talk about center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, but it looks like he's going to the Yankees.


  1. Good pitcher, but not playing the percentages by paying him so much money for so little with no guarantee that his age won't be a problem. I don't see the value in this move, there were much better ways to use those resources to get more value towards winning baseball games. But at least we got a "closer". And no mystery about what roles are left to fill. That's worth some peace of mind. Just not worth $26MM. It's the same lousy deal we did with Hunter. That $13MM last year ended up going to waste for not good enough of an effort by the team. Every dollar they spent last year could have been redirected for a worthy move, but they sunk those dollars and played them out, for what? For a team that wasn't built well and leveraged well to capitalize on their expenditures. This is just more of our team operating like a sieve.

  2. I don't usually like seeing big money spent on relievers, but building a cheap bullpen is not one of Dombrowski's strengths. Thus, I'm happy they got the best reliever available.

    1. Yeah well at least nobody can complain about the Closer role any more. They took their best shot to plug that role-hole. FWIW which is still less than $26MM that could have spent elsewhere. So just annoying to me, but I am glad it wasn't Brian Wilson. Nathan should be able to stay useful for his contracted time.

    2. Is our inability to build a bullpen all on DD? It does seem like a lot of relief pitchers are extremely ineffective in Detroit, and then monsters elsewhere--Grilli, Rodney, et al. Is it the coaching staff, or just random chance? Of course, I suppose the coaching staff buck also stops with the GM. BTW, just got your book delivered today; looking forward to delving into it.

    3. The Tigers official position on that is:

      The past is the past.

      DD wants you to have confidence in this team and look forward to next year, and he has a few more moves that will shore everything up just right.

      What you see as past ineffectiveness was just part of the process to engineer flexibility for the right time and that time is today. Until tomorrow comes. Then it will be back to today again at that time.

    4. And you have to remember this is a team that has for many years sold out the farm to rent players and make all kinds of poor value moves.

      You either create value-adding moves that help you get wealthier over time or retain wealth, or you deplete it.

      Our logic for 10 years from a GM standpoint has been to deplete it.

      Plus the coaching has been abysmal for a decade.

      That's my book, I'm still looking for a publisher. It's going up on Craigslist for 2 cents. I hope I can find a buyer.

  3. sieve:

    a utensil consisting of a wire or plastic mesh held in a frame, used for straining solids from liquids, for separating coarser from finer particles, or for reducing soft solids to a pulp.

    We could learn a lot from our kitchen utensils. The Tigers should do an experiment and melt down some of their gold bars and pour it in and watch what happens to the retention-capacity of the principal.

    Draining liquid gold down the drain is not a good business model, or model to win baseball games.

  4. Well it looks like the new amount is $20MM so my previous comment should be amended to reflect that. That's good news! Heck money doesn't grow on trees anymore, now it just digitally manifests itself overnight. Who has time to plant something and wait for a whole freakin' tree to grow?

    Still the new price doesn't justify the deal still from a value standpoint. But hey if Nathan can stay under a 2.00 ERA then it will leave no room to complain about it. From the dollar/metric analysis standpoint, it won't be our Closer that would have been chiefly responsible for us not winning the WS if we fail to do so, thus it would be best to focus on the other area that is and do something about it before 2015 comes and goes as well.



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