Just because the Red Sox are still trying to find their next manager, doesn’t mean other teams will sit still and wait for them. No, in case anyone forgot, the free agent hot stove is still heating up and continues to be stoked when players sign on with other teams. The latest being reliever Joe Nathan, who signed a two-year deal worth over $14 million with the Texas Rangers.
While the deal seems to be worth a lot for a guy who is trying to find his form since Tommy John Surgery in 2010, the signing leaves an opportunity for the Red Sox.
With Jonathan Papelbon a distant memory now, the Red Sox still have a vacant hole in the bullpen. Many names continue to be linked to the Sox including Francisco Cordero, Heath Bell and Ryan Madson. While anyone of the aforementioned closers could sign with Boston, the Nathan signing takes one more name off the list and one less team that could’ve posed a threat.
The Rangers are a fairly aggressive team in free agency and to have them up and sign Nathan will help the Red Sox in the long run. It’s one less team that could aggressively go after a Heath Bell or Ryan Madson.
Sure the Nathan signing is a bit surprising, but they still have Neftali Feliz as a backup, despite him being put into the starting rotation.
So Ben Cherington, when you and the owners finally come to a consensus and settle on a manager, you may have the luxury of having two, maybe even three top end, high quality closers to choose from. Of course, you could alter the plan and go with Daniel Bard as your closer, but with so much speculation around Corder, Bell and Madson, it’s likely you’ll take a closer look at a couple of them.
The problem with the Nathan signing is the price of the contract. $14 million plus for two-years is a lot for a guy who had an ERA over 5.00 before the All-Star break last season. After the break, Nathan settled down a bit going 11-for11 in save opportunities while sporting a 3.91 and holding batters to a .207 average against him. Nathan found himself splitting the closing duties with Matt Capps and it’s clear the Twins weren’t about to bring back Nathan, especially at that price.
You can thank the Phillies for the escalating reliever contracts, signing Jonathan Papelbon to a record setting contract worth over $50 million for four years.
While the Nathan signing is an opportunity for the Red Sox, it also continues to drive up the price for the guys known as the shut down specialists. So Cherington will no doubt have to overpay should he choose to go the free agent route in finding his ninth inning guy.