Possible Closers

This past week, Jon Daniels spoke with Mike Doocy of KDFW Fox 4 in Dallas and mentioned that Joe Nathan deserves a multi-year deal, and the Rangers had other needs. On Friday, the Rangers exercised the $9 million option on his contract, and Nathan declined. While Joe Nathan had a fantastic 2013 season, the Rangers focus for the offseason will be filling holes in their lineup, and not necessarily pitching. There are other options for closer for the 2014 season already within the organization. Among those options are Tanner Scheppers and Joakim Soria.
Tanner Scheppers’ 2013 season was impressive. The rookie recorded a 1.88 ERA with oppenents hitting just .214 against him. Having given up six homeruns in 76.2 innings, Scheppers forces groundballs on close to half of his pitches put in play. He relies heavily on a fastball, which helps him get to a career strikeout rate of 19.6%. Scheppers has only been in Arlington for one full season, and the Rangers may decide they need a more experienced pitcher as their closer. He’ll be 27 when the 2014 season starts, and he’s still under team control. His cost for his 2014 season will be about $494,000.

Joakim Soria joined the Texas Rangers in the middle of the 2013 season after coming off Tommy John surgery. His season wasn’t his best, but he still managed a 10.65 K/9. Opponents have hit .206 off him during his career, and his walk rate is low. Next season will be Soria’s seventh season in the major leagues, and he’ll be 29 when it starts. With good fastball success and a decent slider, he’s got a track record of a consistent below-2 ERA, with the exception of his 2011 season, after which he needed surgery. His walk rate in 2013 doubled any of his previous walk rate numbers, however, history shows that it’s usually a low number. His cost for the 2014 season will be $5.5 million.

Neftali Feliz could be a name that is thrown into the mix for closer. There’s talk about making him a starter, and spring training will probably help in the decision making. Feliz has a career strikeout rate of 24.6%. He struck out four in 2013 with just 4.2 innings pitched. Feliz came off Tommy John surgery late in 2013. He became a starter in 2012 before being shut down for the procedure. He has been a successful relief pitcher in the past, but the Rangers could have other plans for him. He’ll be 25 when the 2014 season starts, and his contract is arbitration eligible, so his salary is undetermined at the moment, but he made $2.9 million in 2013.

Most teams want their best short reliever in their closing position, and most teams don’t want to overpay for bullpen pieces. Joe Nathan will be 39 on November 22nd, and would cost the Rangers $9 million at the very least. When an organization has younger and cheaper options who are performing well, it’s time to say goodbye to the older, expensive pieces, if they can. Joe Nathan was an oustanding piece for the Rangers bullpen while he was in Arlington, and he’ll probably pitch for a few more years at a decent level, but the Rangers can get the same level of performance for half the cost. Their needs are elsewhere.

Emily Cates is a Staff Writer for Shutdown Inning. You can reach her at Emily.Cates@ShutDownInning.com or  on Twitter at @EmLikesBaseball.
Emily Cates

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