ARLINGTON (AP) – All-Star closer Joe Nathan became a free agent Friday after declining a $9 million contract option in his deal with the Texas Rangers.
After the Rangers exercised their portion of a mutual option, Nathan opted out of the deal, as expected. The right-hander wants at least a two-year agreement, which the Rangers don’t plan to offer.
“My expectation is that there are other teams that maybe have a bigger need in the bullpen and will put in more resources than we are,” Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. “We have some other areas that are a higher priority for us to address.”
Because he finished more than 55 games this season, Nathan was able to opt out of the deal. By declining the option, Nathan gave up a $750,000 buyout.
Nathan, who turns 39 later this month, had 80 saves over two All-Star seasons in Texas. He was 6-2 with a 1.39 ERA and 43 saves this year.
Daniels said the Rangers feel their bullpen in an area of strength and depth. He expects the next closer to come from within the organization, though he said a decision on who that will be likely won’t be made until the Rangers get to spring training in Arizona.
“We have a number of guys internally that have done that for us before,” Daniels said.
Texas still has two former All-Star closers on their roster, though Joakim Soria and Neftali Feliz both had ligament replacement surgery in 2012. Feliz was a closer before moving into the Rangers rotation in 2012, then getting hurt.
Soria missed the entire 2012 season for Kansas City before signing a two-year deal with Texas, and going 1-0 with a 3.80 ERA in 26 appearances this season after coming up in July. Felix is still rehabbing with the expectation to be in the bullpen next season.
Tanner Scheppers was 6-2 with a 1.88 ERA in primarily an eighth-inning role this season. Alexi Ogando is another closer option, though Daniels indicated that it’s likely the right-hander would remain in the rotation rather than returning to the bullpen.
Nathan missed the 2010 season with Minnesota following his own Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. In his return in 2011, he lost his job as closer early in the season before reclaiming it later and pitching well in the second half, saving 11 games and holding opposing batters to a .207 average.
The Rangers signed him early that off-season, after their second consecutive World Series, a move that allowed them to move Felix into the rotation.
“Joe’s been outstanding for us on and off the field,” Daniels said. “He’s been as advertised.”
NOTES: Bobby Jones, the Rangers’ Triple-A manager the last three seasons, will be part of the major league coaching staff next season. Daniels said he wasn’t sure yet if Jones would fill the vacant first-base coaching job of be the seventh coach on the staff. Jones has spent 26 seasons as a coach or manager in the organization, including stints on the Texas coaching staff under Johnny Oates (2000-01) and Buck Showalter (2006).
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