The offseason before 2014 saw many players leave the Texas Rangers. Ian Kinsler, Nelson Cruz, David Murphy, and Joe Nathan are some of the ones fans screamed about when they weren’t brought back as Rangers. Everyone has their favorite player, and it’s understandable to be upset, but most of the decisions could be explained and understood. One decision that seems to stand out as successful is the decision to let Joe Nathan find another team.
The Texas Rangers front office took the option on Joe Nathan’s contract to bring him back for 2014 for $9 million. Joe Nathan declined and looked for a multi-year deal, and the Rangers didn’t want to offer more. He found a new baseball home with the Detroit Tigers, and the Rangers looked at their in-house options for a different solution. Initially, Neftali Feliz was going to be awarded the closer role. It was a role in which he had once succeeded, and there was no reason to think that since he was coming off surgery, he couldn’t do it again. Despite his best efforts, he wasn’t able to join the team out of Spring Training, and the job went to Joakim Soria.
Soria’s history as a reliever has quietly been a great one. From 2007-2011 with the Kansas City Royals, he recorded a 2.40 ERA, a 2.90 FIP, and 9.7 K/9. After a season and a half off due to Tommy John surgery, Soria joined the Rangers in the middle of the 2013 season, and put up a decent 3.80 ERA and a great 10.6 K/9. At age 30, there wasn’t a reason to assume Soria couldn’t continue that success in 2014.
Joe Nathan was great with the Rangers. He’s been pretty good his entire career, but he’s 38 years old, and a multi-year deal just didn’t seem to fit for the Rangers. They had money they wanted to spend elsewhere. So far in 2014, that decision seems like the right one. When each pitcher’s stats are put side-by-side, it’s clear to see it that way.
Joe Nathan has struggled tremendously in Detroit, while Joakim Soria has excelled in Texas. It’s not just about the number of saves each pitcher has gotten, because in Texas, Soria has had fewer chances to save a game. It’s about the pure numbers. Soria is striking out batters at a high rate and rarely walking anyone. He’s already accumulated more fWAR this season than his last two seasons combined (2013 was shortened by injury). It’s safe to say that Rangers fans should appreciate Joe Nathan for what he did while in Texas, but they should not miss him. Joakim Soria has been loads better and comes at half the cost.