2014 MLB Free Agent Profile: Joe Nathan

USA TODAY Sports

The veteran closer headlines a long list of free agent middle relievers and closers.

Since 2004, Joe Nathan has been one of the game’s best closers. Both his traditional statistics (340 saves, 2.14 ERA) and advanced statistics (2.56 FIP, 19.4 fWAR) show how dominant Nathan has been.

After compiling 2.5 fWAR in 2013 —his best season since 2006— Nathan declined a $9 million option from the Rangers. Now a free agent, the veteran right-handed pitcher will look for what could be his last multi-year deal. The Rangers don’t appear willing to give him that, meaning Nathan will pitch elsewhere in 2014.

The Cost

The free agent market boasts a long list of veteran closers and middle relievers, but Nathan is likely the most coveted. His lengthy track record and recent success means that some team will offer him a multi-year deal.

Unfortunately for Nathan, the market for a soon-to-be-39-year-old closer isn't what it used to be. Many general managers seem less willing to pay top dollar for bullpen pieces, instead opting to build from within or use undervalued arms, like the Cardinals and Rays.

Nathan and his agent will still find a general manager who wants to pay for a “true closer,” and it helps that his numbers have been solid across the board. A two-year deal with an annual average value close to the $9 million option Nathan just declined should be expected.

The Fit

The Mets’ bullpen remained an issue in 2013, but the foundation is set for a young, cheap, and effective pen going forward. Recently acquired Vic Black joins fellow power arms Bobby Parnell, Jeurys Familia, and maybe even Jenrry Mejia to form what could be the team’s best bullpen in many years. Jack Leathersich, Domingo Tapia, and others in the minors could eventually help further solidify the late innings. The Mets have no reason to spend big money on a closer, no matter how good he might be.

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