Texas Rangers closer Joe Nathan has declined his half of the mutual option on his contract, meaning that the 38-year-old will become a free agent. Nathan's contract had a $9 million team option for 2014, but the option became a mutual one when the right-hander hit performance thresholds of 55 games finished in 2013 and 100 games finished in 2012 and 2013 combined. Since Nathan is the one who declined the option, he will not receive the $750,000 buyout which would have triggered had the Rangers cut ties.
Nathan was fantastic last season, saving 43 games in 46 chances while posting a 1.39 ERA in 64⅔ innings. He spent two years in Texas, converting 80 of his 86 save opportunities while being named to the AL All-Star team in both seasons. He is expected to seek a multi-year contract, despite his advanced age and an injury history that includes Tommy John surgery as recently as 2010.
It is still possible that Nathan could return to the team if the two sides could work out a new contract. If he departs via free agency, the Rangers have several options with which to replace him. Internal options include former closers Joakim Soria and Neftali Feliz, as well as rookie standout Tanner Scheppers. There are also several strong closers on the free agent market, including Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit, Fernando Rodney and Chris Perez.