Often we lament the inefficiency, unpredictability and overall insanity of the free-agent market. But every now and then, baseball’s Hot Stove simmers at a sensible, logical temperature.
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That will be the case if free-agent closer Joe Nathan signs with the Detroit Tigers.
Mutual interest has developed quickly between Nathan and the Tigers, sources told FOX Sports on Monday evening. The Tigers rank at or near the top of Nathan’s preferred destinations, the sources say. While there are no indications a deal is imminent, the industry would greet news of Nathan heading to Detroit with a collective, “Yep, sounds right.”
Among the reasons:
• Nathan, who turns 39 later this month, has two primary objectives in free agency: He wants to pitch for a winner, and he wishes to do so as a closer. The Tigers reached the American League Championship Series in each of the past three seasons and don’t have a closer now that Joaquin Benoit is a free agent.
• The Tigers need not wonder if Nathan can succeed in the AL. He has accumulated a 2.14 ERA and 340 saves for the Twins and Rangers during the past nine years.
• Nathan is familiar with the Tigers, having opposed them often during his seven seasons in Minnesota. If he chooses Detroit, it will be for the same reasons Torii Hunter — Nathan’s longtime Twins teammate — cited when he joined the Tigers almost exactly one year ago: Nathan, like Hunter, has made many All-Star and postseason appearances but wants to go where he’s never been: the World Series.
• The Tigers aren’t averse to signing closers of advanced baseball age. Also under current club president/general manager Dave Dombrowski, they paid Todd Jones a total of $18 million to fill that role in his age 38, 39 and 40 seasons.
• The Tigers would rather sign Nathan than face him; Nathan has a career 1.44 ERA against Detroit and more saves (36) than against any opponent other than the Kansas City Royals.
• Nathan, one of the most respected players in the sport, would blend well with the likes of Hunter, Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera in the Tigers’ experienced, veteran clubhouse. “Nathan would be a great fit on any team,” Nick Punto, his former teammate in Minnesota, told me Monday. “His work ethic rubs off on his peers.”
More notes from Day 1 of the general managers’ meetings:
• Publicly, the Rockies maintain that shortstop Troy Tulowitzki won’t be traded.
“He isn’t going anywhere,” Rockies senior vice president Bill Geivett told me Monday. Geivett said the same applies to left fielder Carlos Gonzalez.
When asked, Geivett didn’t explicitly rule out the possibility of a trade involving center fielder Dexter Fowler. Geivett did indicate the Rockies would need to be overwhelmed in order to consider moving Fowler.
• Giants fans shouldn’t bother sketching Opening Day lineups with free agent Brian McCann at catcher and icon Buster Posey at first base. Giants assistant GM Bobby Evans told me Monday that Posey moving from catcher to first base on a full-time basis is “not in the discussion.”
• The Pirates are waiting to hear from free agent A.J. Burnett about whether he will pitch in 2014, according to general manager Neal Huntington. The team is likely to add a starter from outside the organization if Burnett retires or signs elsewhere, although Huntington remains optimistic that Wandy Rodriguez (strained throwing elbow) will be ready for spring training.
Huntington is especially pleased with another development: He didn’t need to listen to my annual questions about the importance of ending the Pirates’ streak of losing seasons. The Bucs took care of that rather spectacularly this year. Now?
“It’s a different set of motivations,” Huntington said. “Now that we’ve gotten to the playoffs, it’s to stay in the payoffs and get to the World Series.”
• Finally, just for fun, I went back into our FOXSports.com archive and called up the column I wrote about the then-hapless, last-place Boston Red Sox during the 2012 GM meetings. Turns out, it contained my only accurate prediction of the past 12 months. The headline: “Boston on verge of playoff return.”
You can’t help but smile at some of the year-old quotations from GM Ben Cherington, who Monday was rightfully named Sporting News MLB Executive of the Year.
On whether he had to convince players and agents that the Red Sox were trying to win in 2013 rather than rebuild: “It’s a fair question — and one we haven’t had to answer most offseasons … This is Boston. We’re going to build the team up as quickly as we can. There’s not a two-, three-, four-, five-year plan. That’s not what this is about.”
And on the question of how good the Red Sox would be in 2013: “Fans in Boston are sort of tired of hearing how good we are in the winter. We’ve just got to be good. . . . We’ve got to get to work and build the thing up.”
Turns out, it happened pretty quickly. Fans of the other 29 teams can take heart: You might not be as far from a title as it appears.