The Detroit Tigers‘ biggest weakness over the past couple seasons has arguably been their lack of a top-flight closer to finish games, but that is no longer an issue. According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, Detroit has agreed to sign a two-year deal with Joe Nathan:

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports gave us a bit of information about how much the contract is worth:

Nathan is 39 years of age, but he hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down since joining the Texas Rangers in 2012. Nathan racked up 80 saves in two years with Texas, and he is now tied for 10th with Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers on the all-time saves list with 341.

Much like the recently retired Mariano Rivera, Nathan seems to be improving with age. He may have had the best season of his career in 2013 with 43 saves, a 1.39 ERA and a 0.90 WHIP.    

Aside from an uncharacteristically bad season in 2011 with the Minnesota Twins, Nathan has at least 36 saves in each year since becoming a closer in 2004. He has also registered an ERA below 2.00 on five occasions during that time frame.

Signing Nathan is a major coup for the Tigers, as they have run through a number of different closers in recent years. Detroit found some stability with Joaquin Benoit late in the 2013 season, but the bullpen will be much better off if he can transition back to a setup role.

The Tigers lost to the San Francisco Giants in the 2012 World Series, and the awful pitching of then-closer Jose Valverde was a big reason for that. Detroit made it that far in spite of Valverde, and it has been apparent since then that the Tigers have desperately needed a reliable stopper.

Matt Snyder of weighed in on what the signing meant for Detroit:

The signing here makes a ton of sense for both parties. Nathan is at the point in his career where he surely only wants to play for contenders in pursuit of his first World Series ring. The Tigers’ back-end of the bullpen needed bolstering, as last year’s closer, Joaquin Benoit, is a free agent. Drew Smyly is surely ticketed for the rotation, too, with Doug Fister having been traded. Even if Bruce Rondon takes the huge step forward, of which he’s certainly capable, Nathan gives the Tigers a go-to guy at the back who has proven reliable for the better part of a decade.

Torii Hunter talked about Nathan’s arrival with Bob Nightengale of USA Today:

“I’m glad he joined the team,” Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter told USA TODAY Sports. “With his experience, he just made us stronger. He was a lot of fun when we played together in Minnesota.

“He wants the ball every day, if he could.”

Few are better or more consistent than Nathan, and he’ll likely be happy to reunite with Rangers teammate Ian Kinsler. The Tigers acquired Kinsler from the Rangers in exchange for first baseman Prince Fielder in a recent trade, so Detroit has gone to great lengths to make improvements this offseason.

Assuming Nathan is able to maintain the form he displayed this past season, the Tigers suddenly look like a much more formidable team heading into 2014.


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