Teams in need of a closer soon may have a stunning new possibility to consider.
The Texas Rangers have had internal discussions about trading All-Star right-hander Joe Nathan, according to major league sources.
If the Rangers proceed, it would be with the idea of dealing from strength and exploiting a thin market for relievers, sources said.
Nathan, 38, instantly would become the most attractive closer available — ahead of the Phillies’ Jonathan Papelbon, who might not even be moved.
The Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers are among the teams seeking to upgrade their late-inning relief. Nathan is 32 for 34 in save opportunities with a 1.73 ERA this season, and also earned the save for the American League in the All-Star Game.
The Rangers, frustrated by their attempts to land offensive help, could expand their trade possibilities by dangling Nathan. The team’s situation is growing more urgent — Texas has lost 11 of its last 14 games, and ranks ninth in the American League in runs per game.
Right-hander Joakim Soria, the former closer for the Kansas City Royals, could replace Nathan, sources said. The Rangers also expect their own former closer, righty Neftali Feliz, to return from Tommy John surgery in about a month.
Another option, if left-hander Matt Harrison returns from back surgery, would be to move righty Alexi Ogando from the rotation into a late-inning role. Harrison, like Feliz, could be back toward the end of August.
Nathan is owed about $2.5 million for the rest of the season. His contract includes a $9 million club option for 2014, but he can void the option and become a free agent if he finishes 55 games. He has finished 39 thus far.