Tigers sign closer Joe Nathan to 2-year contract

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit has used the money freed up in the Doug Fister trade to land its coveted Proven Closer.

The Detroit Tigers have signed free-agent closer Joe Nathan to a two-year deal in the $20 million range with an club option for a third season, reports Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports was the first to report the signing.

Nathan, 39, joins the Tigers bullpen after two stellar seasons in the ninth-inning role with the Rangers.

The veteran right-hander had serious injury concerns (Tommy John recovery) going into Texas, but managed to keep a clean bill of health over 129 innings of work during his two years in Arlington. Nathan posted a 2.09 ERA, 80 saves and a strikeout rate of better than 10 batters per nine over that span, putting him among the best relievers in the game.

Detroit has been on the lookout for an established closer ever since Jose Valverde imploded during the 2012 postseason, and in Nathan it finally gets that guy. The Tigers tried a lot of players in the closer role last season, but the only one who had any real success, Joaquin Benoit, is back on the open market. Whether or not the team really needed someone like Nathan to close out games can be argued forever, but it's a moot point now.

Presumably needing to free up payroll to afford Nathan, the Tigers sent right-handed starter Doug Fister to the Nationals on Monday in exchange for a trio of not-so-exciting names. Detroit also dumped a lot of salary by sending Prince Fielder to the Rangers last month, which could be an indication that the club wants to extend core players like Max Scherzer, who are inching toward free agency.

With Nathan off the table, the closer market now consists of Benoit, Grant Balfour and possibly Brian Wilson, the latter of whom is close to re-signing with the Dodgers. The Yankees are known to be on the prowl for a new stopper, but they aren't expected to pursue one until they solve their issues elsewhere on the diamond.

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