JD Makes The First Move
Rangers GM Jon Daniels made a move to avoid being “held hostage” by the market. In the off-season the dominoes fall in certain order. Sometimes you miss opportunities, like Cliff Lee. Sometimes the dominoes fall in a sublime order, like when Angels former GM Tony Reagins passed along Mike Napoli to Toronto, only for him to be a Ranger three days later.
Joe Nathan has jumped aboard the two-time AL champion ship, signing for two years at $14.5 million.
Joe Nathan will likely not be a sublime move, nor as good as the Napoli move. Does it need to be? Feliz himself wasn’t as good as the 2010 Feliz and the overall result was the same, World Series loss. I have found nowhere that the Rangers have made Nathan the unequivocal closer for the 2012 season. I did see that before Nathan signed he was preferring a team where he could close. Two and two equals, Nathan as closer. Mike Adams will get save opportunities at some point in 2012, he may even be ‘the guy’, who knows. Concrete roster decisions are made at the end of March not November.
Adding Nathan to the bullpen, should strengthen the quality of Adams performance. Much like when Adams arrived and Neftali Feliz suddenly got locked in. Competition is good, assigning positions and roles negates some incentive to play well to keep your job. Adams and Nathan should play well off of each other, while looking over each other’s shoulders.
Would Nathan still be here if Feliz hammered the last nail in the coffin, in Game 6? Would Nathan be here if Adams would’ve been more dominant in the playoffs? The Rangers wanted Feliz in the rotation for 2012, irregardless of what happened in the postseason. However, if Adams would’ve been better in the playoffs (2.04 WHIP), I do not think the Rangers would’ve spent $14.5 million dollars on another option at closer. They still would’ve added someone to fill a role in the ‘pen, but it would’ve been at a much smaller amount and smaller role.
This is a double-sided move: Nathan in at closer, Feliz into the rotation. Last season the Rangers failed to acquire anyone to be an adequate arm to close games, thus Feliz was cast to be the closer again. Feliz had a good showing in Spring Training 2010, but with no one solidifying a role at the end of the bullpen, the Rangers hand was forced. I do not find it a coincidence that this is the first move made by JD. Not getting another closer sooner than late July (Adams), is something he probably regrets of the 2011 season. JD is not getting pressed into a situation, instead he’s pressing the issue- making Nathan a closer, making Feliz a starter, and making C.J. Wilson all-but-gone.
Bob Garber, Wilson’s agent, has some work to do because he now has nominal leverage with the Rangers to work with. The Rangers don’t need C.J. and don’t have a spot for him either. I see no scenario where C.J. is a Ranger going forward. We know C.J. is looking for around $100 million. Feliz will earn less than $1 million in 2012, and he could very well be better than C.J. in 2012. I’m not sure how straight-edge Feliz is, or how left-handed he is, or if he can #throwstrikes better than C.J. I do know that he isn’t worth $100 million to the Rangers anymore though. Comparatively, Feliz will be worth exponentially more than the million or so he’ll take to the bank.
That leaves us with several months to talk about how Feliz will/won’t be awesome this year as a starter. And as far as pitching goes, it’s unlikely there will be anymore big splashes. Even JD acknowledged the Rangers were sitting pretty with Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, Alexi Ogando, Neftali Feliz and Scott Feldman in the rotation. The bullpen will feature Nathan, Adams, Koji Uehara and possibly lefty Mike Gonzalez, who is a free agent himself. That basically leaves just the mid-reliever/spare parts-reliever roles open, hardly anything big on the horizon there.
That doesn’t mean JD will be skipping the winter meetings, which is December, 5th-8th in Dallas. No, as always JD will be working the phones and we will all have no idea what he is going to do. JD & Co. are silent assassins, the media never has a whiff of what they are doing, nobody leaks anything from that front office. Did anybody hear about Joe Nathan until it was nearly done, nope. They will be fast at work, seeing if there’s anyway to improve upon a team that was utterly close to a championship.
They will not be adding another starter unless he is better than what they can run out there right now. They will likely bring some non-roster invitees to Spring Training who could help in a pinch, similar to Dave Bush and Brett Tomko last season. No one will be added unless it’s a front-line starter though, something that many are predicting not to be available this winter. Yu Darvish, it would seem, is still on the Rangers radar; as he would be seen as an upgrade in the rotation if they are willing to meet the asking price.
Overall, signing Joe Nathan is an excellent move, specifically for the timing. Feliz gets all off-season to work-out and mentally prepare to be a starter. The Rangers have no pressure to sign C.J. or Darvish. JD is spending more time this off-season dictating the market rather than being “held hostage”.