Joe Nathan declines option; closer job now up for grabs

The Texas Rangers are officially in the market for a new closer for 2014.

Texas exercised its option on Joe Nathan’s deal for 2014, but as expected, Nathan declined the option and is now a free agent.

That move opens a wide-open door for the closer’s job for the Rangers for a bullpen with plenty of candidates in Joakim Soria, Neftali Feliz, Tanner Scheppers and Alexi Ogando.

Texas general manager Jon Daniels is confident the club can find someone to fill the role.

“We feel like the bullpen in general is an area of strength for us and an area of depth,” Daniels said. “I would expect our closer ultimately to be somebody already in the organization. We have a number of guys internally that have either done it before or have that kind of ability and we think we can handle it.”

Daniels said he doesn’t expect the Rangers to name a closer until spring training. Both Soria and Feliz have been All-Star closers in the past, while Scheppers was dominant in a set-up role for Texas in 2013. Daniels said he expects Ogando to be a starter, but no decision has been made yet.

Nathan, 38, was able to opt out of his deal by finishing 55 games for the Rangers this season and 100 or more in his first two seasons (123). He was slated to make $9 million if he remained with Texas.

Nathan, who signed with the Rangers before the 2012 season, saved 80 games for Texas and was an All-Star both years. He finished the 2013 season with 43 saves and a 1.39 ERA.

Daniels had nothing but praise for Nathan, but he doesn’t expect the team to be in the market for the reliever, who is looking for a multi-year deal in free agency.

“He’s been outstanding,” Daniels said. “My expectation is there are other teams that maybe have a bigger need in the bullpen and put more resources towards it than we are. Joe’s been outstanding for us on and off the field. He’s been as advertised. We’re looking at it as other areas we have are higher priority to address and how are we going to allocate our resources.”

Daniels said while the Rangers wanted Nathan back, they made it clear to his representatives that if he remained with the team, it would have made Nathan a trade candidate because of his salary. The club also saved $750,000 with Nathan’s decision to decline the option.