Texas Rangers: Joe Nathan

Rangers bullpen holding its own with A's

April, 25, 2014
4/25/14
7:45
AM CT
Shawn TollesonKelley L Cox/USA TODAY SportsShawn Tolleson is one of several relievers who have made the pen an early bright spot for Texas.

So much for conventional wisdom. April in the American League West is yet another reminder of why you have to play the games before you can truly figure out where everyone stands. It's not a surprise that the top three teams in this division are the Texas Rangers, Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Angels. On paper, those are the three best teams. Sure, the Seattle Mariners improved during the offseason, but it takes more than one $240 million player to compete with the trio at the top over the long haul.

What is surprising is how the Rangers have managed to win games despite all of their injuries. We've talked a bunch about this club's supersubs and how this rotation has come together. Heck, on Tuesday, the Rangers were playing with Michael Choice at leadoff, Josh Wilson and Donnie Murphy in the lineup and a Double-A spot starter on the mound. And they won.

But there's another big reason for the club's early success: the bullpen. Texas has put together a group that is confident and comfortable in their roles, while Oakland's relief corps, considered one of the best in baseball, hasn't looked as good as billed, especially in the ninth.

Consider how good the Athletics' record might be if they hadn't blown six saves. Six! On the season, they have more blown saves than saves (five). Only the Chicago White Sox have a worse percentage in the league. This is a case in which the other numbers look better than they appear. Oakland's pen has a 2.55 ERA, second in the league. The A's are holding opponents to a .198 batting average against, the best in the league. But the relievers throw the second-most pitches per inning in the AL, and in crunch time -- when you need those final three outs in the ninth -- they haven't consistently done the job. Jim Johnson was moved out of the closer's role, and replacement Luke Gregerson hasn't found his rhythm. The A's were in position to win the first two games of their recent series with Texas and couldn't close the deal. They had Wilson, a backup utility infielder, down to his final strike in the ninth Tuesday and still lost the game.

The Rangers' bullpen doesn't have the gaudy numbers of the A's'. The Rangers are in the middle of the AL in ERA, nearly two runs higher than the A's. Opponents are hitting .259 off them. But Texas also has the third-most holds in the league, has blown only two saves and has a quartet of pitchers who are nailing games down late in winning or close situations. Jason Frasor, Neal Cotts, Alexi Ogando and Joakim Soria have delivered. Others are contributing in key spots, too: Shawn Tolleson was called upon to keep things tight Tuesday and did so, allowing the Rangers a chance to make the comeback in the ninth.

(Read full post)

Spring question: Who is the closer?

February, 11, 2014
2/11/14
8:00
AM CT
Note: This is part of a series analyzing the questions facing the Texas Rangers as spring training gets set to begin.

Neftali FelizAP Photo/LM OteroNeftali Feliz is the early favorite to once again be in the closer role for the Rangers.
Today's question: Who closes for the club in 2014?

One frequent question from fans this offseason involves why the club hasn't looked outside the organization for a closer. The decision was made to part ways with Joe Nathan -- and he made that decision, too, as he wanted a multiyear deal and the Rangers weren't comfortable with that -- because the team was so confident in its internal options.

So the bulk of the offseason was spent bolstering the lineup and looking for pitching depth, rather than worrying about a closer that might have been available as a free agent or via trade.

SportsNation

Who will be the Rangers' closer this season?

  •  
    14%
  •  
    16%
  •  
    65%
  •  
    5%

Discuss (Total votes: 3,799)

Here's a look at the internal options:

*Neftali Feliz. He comes into spring the favorite in large part because he's shown signs of returning to his 2010 and 2011 form with how he performed at winter ball and the reports the club is getting on him.

Feliz isn't coming into spring training stretched out as a starter. His job is only to be in the bullpen, and he's said he's good with that. The 25-year-old has closing experience, performing well in that job in 2010 and 2011 and collecting 74 career saves.

The question will be whether he mentally feels like he can handle it. His last experience as the guy charged with getting those final three outs was Game 6 of the 2011 World Series. But it's worth noting that the club didn't remove Feliz from the job because of that game. They had a chance to get Nathan early in the offseason after that year and pounced. That allowed them to shift Feliz to the starting role and see if that was better suited for him.

Two seasons later -- and rehabbing from Tommy John surgery -- Feliz heads to spring training as the frontrunner to get his old job back.

*Joakim Soria. When it comes to closing experience, the 29-year-old Soria has a bunch of it. He saved 28 games in 2011 for the Kansas City Royals and made the All-Star team with 43 saves in 2010. He's got 160 career saves, by far the most of any of the Rangers' closing candidates.

Soria was 1-0 with a 3.80 ERA in 2013 with Texas as he returned from elbow surgery after missing all of 2012. Soria did have the benefit of a regular offseason after getting healthy, so that should help his preparation as he arrives in Surprise.

*Tanner Scheppers. Don't forget about him. He's a longshot for the closer role if for no other reason than he's stretched out to start. But if someone else steps up and seizes that rotation spot or if the Scheppers is needed in the closer role, it's possible he could fill the void.

The most likely scenario is Scheppers is a late-inning setup man again. He did a good job in that role last season, posting a 6-2 mark with a 1.88 ERA in 76 2/3 innings in getting the game to Nathan.

Who closes for this team is one question that must be answered before spring training ends.

Ranger Resolutions: Find a closer

January, 3, 2014
1/03/14
8:00
AM CT
Note: This week, we're running a series titled "Ranger Resolutions" as we look at some things the Texas Rangers hope to do better in 2014.

Today's resolution: Find a closer

It's one of the few remaining questions for the Rangers as they steam toward spring training, which starts in just a month and a half. The good news: The Rangers have some good possible answers, they just have to settle on one.

Texas made the decision not to re-sign closer Joe Nathan, who did an excellent job in his two All-Star seasons with the club. But Nathan wanted a multiyear deal and the Rangers didn't want to pay a premium price to keep him knowing they had to use their money on bats this offseason.

The other reason they could afford to let Nathan go (he eventually signed with Detroit) was that they have three realistic internal candidates who can handle the job.

That list starts with Neftali Feliz, who comes into spring training as the favorite to earn the job, if he proves he's healthy and ready. Feliz is returning from Tommy John surgery and pitched in six games for Triple-A Round Rock near the end of last season, allowing no runs on four hits in 8 2/3 innings with nine strikeouts and two walks. He went to the Dominican Republic to pitch in winter ball and gave up three runs on six hits in 9 2/3 innings, though two of those three runs in one rough outing Dec. 10. One of Feliz's two walks in those 10 appearances was in that outing as well.

Feliz was the club's closer in 2010 and 2011, so he has experience and knows what it takes to do that role. And he's said that he wants to close. But he also has to prove that mentally he's completely put how the 2011 season ended in the rearview mirror.

Feliz isn't the only candidate. The club has two others: Joakim Soria and Tanner Scheppers. The Rangers signed Soria before last season knowing that he wouldn't be able to help them until midway through the year, coming off injury. Soria ended up with a 3.80 ERA and showed flashes of his old self. He finished the year with scoreless outings in 12 of his final 14 appearances and he was an All-Star closer for the Kansas City Royals in 2010, when he had 43 saves. He also had 28 saves in 2011. So Soria certainly knows how to close and is an option.

Scheppers came into his own as a solid, setup reliever in 2013. He made 76 appearances (76 2/3 innings) and sported a 1.88 ERA and a 6-2 mark. Scheppers had a great first few months, but was inconsistent at times in July and August before rebounding with a strong September. In the final month, Scheppers put up a 1.13 ERA and 14 strikeouts to just two walks in 16 innings. Alexi Ogando is slated to be in the rotation, though if something changes there, perhaps he gets a chance to throw his hat in the ring. But as of now, the Rangers are planning on him starting.

As the new year is now upon us, the Rangers must figure out the back end of the bullpen, starting with the closer. The Rangers can afford to let things play out and see how each guy in the trio does this spring before making any decisions. It should make for an interesting competition.

Nelson Cruz has week to decide on offer

November, 4, 2013
11/04/13
4:40
PM CT
The Texas Rangers made it official Monday, tendering a $14.1 million qualifying offer to outfielder Nelson Cruz prior to today's 4 p.m. deadline.

The move wasn't a tough decision for the club. It's likely not a tough one for Cruz, either. He's expected to decline the option and seek a multiyear deal. He has until next Monday at 4 p.m. to make his decision. But don't misunderstand: If he spurns the one-year, $14.1 million offer, it doesn't mean he's not wearing a Rangers uniform in 2014.

The Rangers, like any other team, would have the right to negotiate with Cruz. He said prior to the season ending that he wanted to test the market. But he's also made it clear he likes Texas and wants to stay. The club needs a power hitter and it knows Cruz well. It may simply come down to what the market will bear and how many years are on the table.

Of course, if Cruz decides he wants to play in Texas and for $14.1 million next season, the Rangers would gladly pay it and put him out there with Leonys Martin and Alex Rios, filling one of their offseason holes. Stay tuned.

Cruz was the only Ranger to receive a qualifying offer. The others -- David Murphy, Colby Lewis, A.J. Pierzynski and Geovany Soto -- can sign with any club, including Texas. If they do go elsewhere, the Rangers won't receive any kind of draft pick compensation. Joe Nathan is also a free agent after he declined the club option on his contract last week.

Other notes:

* The Rangers reinstated left-handed pitchers Matt Harrison and Edwar Cabrera from the 60-day DL. Harrison made two starts and ended up having three surgeries in 2013. He's expected to be ready for the 2014 season. Cabrera was claimed off Colorado's roster in October.

* RHP Ross Wolf and LHP Travis Blackley cleared waivers and were outrighted to the minor leagues. Wolf was signed to a 2014 minor league contract with an invitation to big league spring training. Blackley elected to become a free agent.

Wolf, 31, was 1-3 with a 4.15 ERA in 22 games (three of them starts) for the Rangers in 2013. It was his first season in the majors since 2007.

* The Rangers have 34 players on the 40-man roster now.

* RHP Lisalverto Bonilla, because of an injury to a pitcher from another organization, was added to the roster of the Surprise Saguaros in the Arizona Fall League. He's active starting tonight. Surprise's last game is Nov. 14.

Joe Nathan thanks fans, eyes 2-year deal

November, 4, 2013
11/04/13
7:00
AM CT
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Former Texas Rangers closer Joe Nathan is thankful he got a chance to play for two seasons at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, but believes that the teams calling him to consider two-year deals won't include the Rangers.

Nathan heaped praise on the Rangers' fans and talked about how much he enjoyed closing games in Texas.

"Baseball in Texas was great," Nathan said Sunday. "The organization treats the player second to none. They do it right. The city and the fans always showed up. It was loud crowds, and that was fun to come to the ballpark as a player and know we were going to have a good atmosphere. There are some places where you have to find your own energy, and Texas wasn't one of those places. If you felt sluggish at all, the crowd would pick you up."

Texas picked up the option on Nathan's contract, but the 38-year-old closer had the right to decline the $9 million option and did so Friday, making him a free agent. He said he wants a two-year deal and was "hoping" the Rangers would be interested, but understands they have other priorities.

"I’m sure ... they could use this money to better strengthen themselves and use it for holes they can fill," Nathan said. "The bullpen is one area they feel they can afford to lose a guy or two and pick up some cash for something else. I get that. To me, it seems that other clubs are going to call and I don’t think Texas will be one of them."

Nathan has 341 saves, good enough for 10th all time. He was an All-Star in both of his seasons in Texas.

Rangers looking at internal options at closer

November, 1, 2013
11/01/13
5:23
PM CT
It wasn't surprising that Joe Nathan became a free agent today. The Texas Rangers did, in fact, exercise the option on the 38-year-old Nathan's contract for 2014, but they were honest about the bullpen situation with him and he opted to seek a multiyear deal in free agency rather than risk getting traded. The move also allows the Rangers to avoid paying the $750,000 buyout.

[+] EnlargeNathan
AP Photo/Jim CowsertThe Rangers have several options already on the roster to close after Joe Nathan opted to become a free agent.
It means a financial savings for 2014 too, since the internal candidates won't make anything close to the $9 million the Rangers would have paid Nathan had he not declined the option. So what about those internal options? General manager Jon Daniels talked about three of them Friday, noting that the club has priorities at other positions and that at this time it makes sense to keep that closer job in-house.

There are three clear options (in alphabetical order):

  • Neftali Feliz. Remember him? He came back from Tommy John surgery and appeared in just six games -- all losses -- in September. But the 25-year-old is working out and getting ready for the season and will pitch at winter ball at some point as part of a conditioning program planned by the team. Feliz had two years of closing experience for the Rangers before the signing of Nathan prior to the 2012 season allowed the club to shift Feliz to the rotation. If he's healthy, he certainly has a shot to reclaim that job.

  • Tanner Scheppers. He emerged as a solid, reliable eighth-inning setup man in 2013, a stepping stone for many closers. Scheppers, who turns 27 in January, had 27 holds and a 1.88 ERA in 76 appearances (76 2/3 innings pitched) last season. Scheppers struggled some in August but rebounded with a strong September. He'll head into spring training with a lot of confidence.

    "With Scheppers, it was a big breakout performance for us," Daniels said. "He's always had that ability, but from a consistency standpoint, he took a big step forward."

    Daniels credits Nathan for helping Scheppers take that step.

  • Joakim Soria. Like Feliz, Soria also has closing experience. His last visit to the All-Star Game came in 2010, a season in which he had 43 saves and a 1.78 ERA. Soria had Tommy John surgery in 2012 and returned to the big leagues in July. He had a 3.80 ERA in 23 2/2 innings pitched.

    "He's a guy that at the time was one of the best closers in the game in Kansas City and at times [in 2013] looked like a guy a year off from Tommy John surgery," Daniels said. "We talk about guys coming back in 12 months [from Tommy John], but a lot of times it's not until the second year that you see them at 100 percent. You saw that at times this year."

    Daniels said that he's hoping Soria follows a path similar to Nathan, in that it took Nathan a little time following surgery before he started to dominate again.

    But Friday's move gives the Rangers some financial flexibility to worry about their other needs, like finding a catcher, another outfielder and figuring out what they want to do at first base.
  • Joe Nathan knows the Rangers' bullpen situation

    October, 31, 2013
    10/31/13
    12:33
    PM CT
    Closer Joe Nathan ran through the Texas Rangers' offseason shopping list Thursday like a member of the front office. He knows they need catchers, an outfielder, more power and he knows they must sort out the rotation and bullpen.

    Nathan accepts that in "sorting out" that pen, financial considerations are involved.

    “I know they have a surplus of arms in the bullpen and I know the business side of it,” Nathan said. “You’re trying to get as much money as you can to strengthen your club, so they may want to spend that money somewhere else. They have some work to do to piece some holes together.”

    Nathan, who turns 39 on Nov. 22, said he's looking for a two-year deal and believes he's earned it after two solid seasons in Texas. But with a budget that general manager Jon Daniels said isn't going up from last year, do the Rangers want to risk Nathan accepting a $9 million option (he has the right to decline it after finishing 55 games in 2013)? Do they want to sign a 39-year-old reliever to a two-year deal?

    This club has holes, as Nathan mentioned, and they'd likely want to stay as financially flexible as they can. Tying up that money in two years of Nathan or even one at $9 million seems doubtful, with cheaper options like Joakim Soria and Tanner Scheppers on the roster.

    Nathan made it clear he wants to stay in Texas. He wants to be on a winner and knows the organization is doing what it can to continue to win and reach the next level. But he also knows they've got tough decisions to make and that going younger and more inexpensive at the closer's position may be one of those.

    With World Series over, Rangers get busy

    October, 31, 2013
    10/31/13
    7:40
    AM CT
    Now that the World Series is over and October baseball gives way to November Hot Stove, the Texas Rangers will immediately get busy. Among the decisions that need to be made soon (before the Winter Meetings begin at Disney World in early December):

    * Nelson Cruz. It should come as no surprise that the Rangers will make a qualifying offer to the outfielder. That offer of $14.1 million makes sense because if Cruz takes it, the club has its top power hitter back in 2014. If not and he signs somewhere else, the club would get draft pick compensation. It's an easy call, frankly. Cruz, 33, is expected to decline the offer and try to get a multi-year deal.

    That's the second part of the equation. Do the Rangers offer Cruz a two- or three-year deal that could eat a decent chunk of their available money within a budget that Daniels has said won't change much from last year? He's not exactly a young player anymore, so it's a difficult choice.

    * Joe Nathan. The club has three days to decide whether to offer Nathan a chance to accept the option on his contract. Nathan's deal includes a $9 million club option, but because the nearly 39-year-old (his birthday is Nov. 22) finished 55 games in 2013, he has the right to void that option. The Rangers must choose if they want to bring him back at that number based on their budget and the fact that they have some options at closer (like Joakim Soria or Tanner Scheppers). They could also just buy Nathan out for $750,000. If the Rangers do offer the option and Nathan refuses it, they don't have to pay the buyout.

    Nathan, by the way, has talked about wanting a two-year deal. But if the Rangers choose to exercise the option, Nathan would have 48 hours to decide. (My bet is they won't exercise the option at that price. But we'll see.)

    * Other teams can not negotiate with the Rangers' free agents until the sixth day after the World Series. So Texas has a brief exclusive window to talk to guys who could seek deals elsewhere. Cruz is the biggest name, but Matt Garza, David Murphy and catchers A.J. Pierzynski and Geovany Soto join Nathan on that list as well.

    * Early shopping. The Rangers waited a while last year before signing Pierzynski and Lance Berkman late in the offseason, because they had to wait and see what Josh Hamilton and Zack Greinke would do. But they've shown a willingness to jump in early if it makes sense. That's how they got Nathan two years ago, and that signing has certainly worked out. We'll see if they decide to shop and buy a little earlier this offseason as opposed to the last one based on their needs and budget.

    * Arbitration. Some of these don't look too difficult. Neal Cotts proved he was a valuable member of the bullpen and could be a guy the Rangers look at signing for more than one year (getting through his final year of arbitration and one of his free agent years). Neftali Feliz, Alexi Ogando and Craig Gentry should be back. The toughest call might be Mitch Moreland. MLB Trade Rumors, which does a good job of forecasting arbitration numbers, has Moreland coming in around $2.7 million. The club must decide if they want to retain him at that number or use that money elsewhere.

    * Lance Berkman. This is another decision that really isn't a decision. Berkman couldn't stay healthy after the team signed him to an $10 million contract in the offseason. The club won't be exercising the option on Berkman, but it's still on the "to do" list. The buyout will cost them $1 million.

    Defining Dozen: Rangers run the table

    October, 30, 2013
    10/30/13
    8:00
    AM CT
    Editor's Note: This is the eighth of a 12-part series titled "Defining Dozen," which looks at the 12 moments that impacted the 2013 season the most. We will count down from 12 to 1. The moments will include highs and lows for the Texas Rangers from a season that lasted until Game 163.

    Jurickson ProfarAP Photo/Jim CowsertJurickson Profar's walk-off HR helped Texas finish the regular season on a seven-game win streak.
    No. 5: Seven straight wins to end the season.

    The Rangers had a pretty good idea they would have to win all seven games on their final homestand of the regular season to have any chance of making the postseason, or at least get themselves in an American League wild-card tiebreaker game.

    And they did just that.

    A wild final week at Rangers Ballpark included 20-year-old rookie Jurickson Profar belting a walkoff home run, Alex Rios hitting for the cycle and a four-game sweep of former teammate Josh Hamilton and the rival Los Angeles Angels to close out the seven-game winning streak.

    The Rangers' perfect homestand forced a tiebreaker with Tampa Bay for the second wild-card spot, which the Rangers ended up losing 5-2 in Game 163 to end their season.

    The Rangers entered the week having lost on a Sunday in Kansas City on a walkoff grand slam by Royals outfielder Justin Maxwell. Ron Washington's team had a create some momentum with a three-game series against Houston.

    The Astros were the perfect opponent. The Rangers, who were already 14-2 against Houston, built up steam with a 12-0 victory over the Astros on Monday night. Rios hit for the cycle, finishing it off in six innings, and Derek Holland threw a six-hitter.

    Then came a 3-2 win on Tuesday as Adrian Beltre homered and a 7-3 victory on Wednesday as rookie Martin Perez won for the 10th time on the season.

    The drama continued to unfold Thursday night against the Angels as Profar electrified the crowd with his sixth home run of the season, a towering shot to right field to finish off a 6-5 victory. The Rangers leaned on the bullpen from there, winning three close games. Neal Cotts won two games and Tanner Scheppers and Joe Nathan pitched in all four games of the series to force the one-game playoff with the Rays.

    The Rangers had to have every win as Cleveland ended the season on a 10-game winning streak -- clinching the first wild-card spot. The Rays lost two games over the weekend at Toronto to allow Texas to pull even for the second spot.

    "I believe in [momentum]," catcher Geovany Soto said after the game as the Rangers forced a Game 163. "I believe the team is coming together more than ever."

    The Rangers didn't beat the Rays, but they did show determination in any forcing the extra game against Tampa Bay.

    Defining Dozen: Letting one get away

    October, 25, 2013
    10/25/13
    8:00
    AM CT
    Editor's Note: This is the fifth of a 12-part series titled "Defining Dozen," which looks at the 12 moments that impacted the 2013 season the most. We will count down from 12 to 1. The moments will include highs and lows for the Texas Rangers from a season that lasted until Game 163.

    Desmond Jennings AP Photo/Chris O'MearaDesmond Jennings put the finishing touch on a difficult loss for the Rangers.
    Moment No. 8: Rangers blow late lead, fall 4-3 to Tampa Bay Rays in September.

    When you end up tying for the final wild-card spot, you can easily look back and pick out a game here and a game there that would have made the difference. But there was one that kept coming up when talking to some players and staff down the stretch: Sept. 18 in Tampa Bay.

    That night, the Rangers led the game twice, only to blow it. They had the Rays down to their final strike, in fact, but couldn't finish them off. Instead, the Rays walked off with a 4-3 victory in 12 innings. Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon called it the kind of "organic" win that could spark them to a run. And it did, as it turns out.

    The Rangers led 2-0 going into the bottom of the fourth and appeared to get out of the inning on a ready-made double-play ball. But a good, hard slide by Wil Myers on Jurickson Profar prevented a good relay throw and the inning continued. The Rays got two to tie it in that frame.

    "That was the big inning," manager Ron Washington said after the game. "Not turning that double play changed the whole ballgame."

    Texas regained the lead in the 11th on an aggressive, heads-up play by Elvis Andrus, who ran all the way home from first on a two-out single by Adrian Beltre (Myers didn't really see him and Andrus was able to get home). But with Joe Nathan on the mound in the bottom half, the Rays clawed back. David DeJesus hit a 2-2 slider to center to tie the score.

    That set the stage for the 12th. With lefty Joseph Ortiz on the mound and Neftali Feliz warming up, right-handed hitter Desmond Jennings came to the plate. Washington decided to stick with Ortiz, thinking his changeup would be crucial in the at-bat. Jennings, though, singled to give the Rays the victory.

    Texas ended up winning the next night to claim the season series from the Rays, giving the Rangers the home game in Game 163. But at the end of the year as they glanced back to the previous few weeks, it was that loss that stuck with him.

    Offseason question: Who closes in 2014?

    October, 16, 2013
    10/16/13
    9:00
    AM CT
    Editor's Note: This is the eighth in a 10-part series that will focus on questions the Texas Rangers must answer this offseason. These questions are in no particular order.

    Today's question: Who closes for the Rangers in 2014?

    [+] EnlargeScheppers
    AP Photo/Tony GutierrezTanner Scheppers could take over closing duties for the Rangers next season.
    Give the Rangers credit. They seem to find quality pieces for their bullpen every offseason. Two years ago, general manager Jon Daniels jumped in and snatched Joe Nathan up early in the free-agent season, grabbing the closer that the club felt was the best one left on the market. It was a smart decision. Nathan had 37 saves in 2012 and 43 more this past season at the age of 38. He made $7 million each season.

    Nathan was a reliable and steady closer. He was even better last year than he was in 2011. Nathan posted a 1.39 ERA and was 43 of 46 in save opportunities. Opponents hit just .162 against him, fourth-lowest among AL relievers.

    The Rangers have an option on that contract at $9.5 million for 2014, but Nathan has the right to void the option thanks to games finished this past season. He's expected to do that since he wants a multi-year deal. The question is whether the Rangers want to pay Nathan on more than a one-year deal at this point, based on his age.

    Nathan certainly didn't look like he was slowing down. But the club does have some internal options for that spot. Tanner Scheppers had a solid season and despite a rough start to the second half, did come back stronger near the end of the season. He's got the stuff to do it. Joakim Soria, who will make $5.5 million in 2014, has closing experience. So does Neftali Feliz, who was moved to the rotation when Nathan was signed prior to 2012 and was the club's closer during both of the World Series years.

    Daniels was asked a few days after the season about spending big bucks on a closer.

    "It's never been our preference," Daniels said. "Nathan's one of the few guys we've invested big dollars in for the bullpen on a multi-year deal, and I'm glad we did. There are a couple of things that are different with Joe. One thing: He's Joe Nathan. We were able to get him at the time because he was recovering from Tommy John surgery at the time. Secondly, we wanted to start Feliz at the time. We looked at the time that we were buying a closer but also enabling ourselves to look at a young starter. We have a lot of areas to address. We're going to continue to talk about that."

    It's obviously a critical position and one that has been a consistently good one for the Rangers the past few years with Nathan there. But this club has many needs and they've got to determine how much money to allocate at closer. It's a big offseason question that the club will have to answer.

    Texas keeps solid (affordable) bullpen arm

    October, 11, 2013
    10/11/13
    1:50
    PM CT
    I'd consider re-signing Jason Frasor to a one-year deal at $1.75 million plus incentives a surprise, if only in the sense that I thought the price would be higher. I think the Texas Rangers got a bargain (if Frasor hits his incentives, it means he's productive and healthy and that's certainly not a bad thing).

    Frasor, 36, gives this club an important veteran in late relief from a bullpen that was one of the best in the big leagues last year. The Rangers had a 2.89 ERA, second-best in the league behind the Kansas City Royals. Frasor was a key component in the sixth or seventh inning to help get the game to Tanner Scheppers and Joe Nathan.

    Frasor rebounded from an unsteady April and May to become a solid, reliable relief piece for manager Ron Washington, pitching coach Mike Maddux and bullpen coach Andy Hawkins. Frasor had a 2.06 ERA in the final four months of the season and opponents hit just .187 against him. He allowed just one home run in that span and had a 1.06 WHIP.

    In those final four months, Frasor also held left-handed hitters to a .163 average and in the last 22 at-bats lefties had against him, they managed just one hit.

    By the way, for those wondering about cost: Mike Adams was coming off a season with the Rangers in which he had a 3.47 ERA in 61 games (52 1/3 innings) with 45 strikeouts and 17 walks. He earned a two-year deal worth $12 million from the Phillies. In fairness, Adams was the club's primary eighth-inning setup man with Texas, and Frasor was not. But Frasor's season-long numbers in 2013 are pretty similar to what Adams had in 2012 before departing (2.57 ERA, 61 games, 49 innings, 48 strikeouts and 20 walks). Frasor certainly fits into the budget a lot better.

    The Rangers wanted Frasor's important right arm in the bullpen in 2014, so they got the deal done now.

    Rangers postmortem: Busy offseason ahead

    October, 3, 2013
    10/03/13
    3:29
    PM CT
    ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Texas Rangers' brass has met the last two days to map out a plan of how to build on the best four-year run in franchise history while coming to grips with being eliminated in one-game playoff situations the last two seasons.

    PODCAST
    Rangers GM Jon Daniels joins Fitzsimmons and Durrett to tackle the tough questions after his team failed to advance to the playoffs.

    Listen Listen
    "One and done isn't good enough," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said Thursday in a postmortem press conference.

    Daniels said that the Rangers will get back to their roots as a solid scouting and development organization, while also exploring the free agent and trade markets.

    They'll do so, Daniels said, with close to the same budget as the 2013 season -- $125 million -- while the general manager admitted it will probably be a little less than last season.

    The Rangers could shed some salary with Joe Nathan, outfielder Nelson Cruz and designated hitter Lance Berkman set to become free agents. The Rangers like Nathan -- manager Ron Washington said Tuesday he'd like to have him back -- but Daniels also indicated Thursday that the club could look to Tanner Scheppers or other returning relievers for the closer job.

    Daniels also said the Rangers will likely make a qualifying offer to Cruz.

    The offense was minus the power of Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli and relied on a speed game that did help them win 91 games. With not much power on the free agent market, Cruz could be back.

    "It's going to be a challenge," Daniels said. "There's not a lot of power available."

    Jurickson Profar, who took on the role as a utlityman, probably won't play that role next season, which means the Rangers will have to explore their options.

    "The ideal situation is he won't be in that role," Daniels said.

    Daniels didn't get into how the Rangers will handle free agency this season after the club was involved in just about every player at last year's winter meetings and didn't come away with a marquee name.

    Will the Rangers go after free-agent-to-be catcher Brian McCann?

    "That remains to be seen," Daniels said.

    Wash would welcome Cruz, Nathan back

    October, 1, 2013
    10/01/13
    12:40
    PM CT
    ARLINGTON, Texas -- Decisions, decisions, decisions.

    The Rangers have quite a few to make as they enter their first offseason in four years without a postseason game.

    Will Nelson Cruz be back? How about Joe Nathan? Others, such as catchers A.J. Pierzynski and Geovany Soto, outfielder David Murphy and pitcher Matt Garza will be discussed ad nauseam before the winter meetings in December in Orlando.

    SportsNation

    Who do you most want to see stay in a Rangers uniform next season?

    •  
      45%
    •  
      21%
    •  
      18%
    •  
      11%
    •  
      5%

    Discuss (Total votes: 13,113)

    Manager Ron Washington touched on the big ones -- Cruz and Nathan -- during his postmortem press conference Tuesday morning, 12 hours after the Rangers lost to the Tampa Bay Rays 5-2 in the American League tiebreaker game. He and general manager Jon Daniels and the rest of the brain trust will sit down at some point and go over all the options.

    The big one is Cruz. He was suspended for the final 50 games of the regular season for violation of Major League Baseball's Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. Cruz has to shoulder a portion of the blame for the Rangers' not making a stronger push for the AL West title, as they gave it up to Oakland in the final month.

    The Rangers were disappointed by Cruz's decision-making and suspension, but they also know there's a lack of right-handed power hitters in the major leagues, and the minors too. The Rangers are likely to make Cruz a qualifying offer of about $13.5 million.

    Washington, for one, would welcome Cruz back.

    “When you think about a Nelson Cruz, who wouldn’t want a Nelson Cruz?" Washington said. "Big heart, great teammate, but there’s a lot of decisions to be made on our part and Nelson’s part. I do believe Jon Daniels will go down that road and see where it works or doesn’t work."

    Then there's Nathan. The Rangers have a $9.5 million option on him for 2014, with a $750,000 buyout, a contract that Nathan can void and become a free agent. Nathan, 38, made it clear all season that he expects to pitch for several more years and will seek a multiyear deal.

    Nathan blew three saves this season and finished with 43 saves. He may walk the tightrope sometimes, which drives the fan base crazy, but he's reliable and gets the job done.

    “I thought Joe Nathan had a tremendous year,” Washington said. “I think at the end of the year, Joe Nathan proved to everyone that doubted him what he was made of, and I certainly would love to continue giving him the ball because he gets outs.”

    There will be other decisions. Both Pierzynski and Soto would like to return, but the Rangers may set their sights on free-agent-to-be Brian McCann.

    They gave up a lot for Garza, including pitcher C.J. Edwards -- who pitched tremendously for the Cubs in the minors after the trade. Is that reason enough to bring Garza back? Did he show enough despite going through a maddening stretch in August and September?

    Whatever happens, this will be a fascinating offseason, one in which Daniels and his staff will have to make their mark.

    Buzz: All pitchers ready to go, minus Yu

    September, 30, 2013
    9/30/13
    6:00
    PM CT
    ARLINGTON, Texas -- Rangers manager Ron Washington isn't planning on having a quick hook for 22-year-old starter Martin Perez in Monday's American League wild-card tiebreaker game.

    But he has plenty of arms to turn to if needed.

    Washington said all of his pitchers, including starters Alexi Ogando, Matt Garza and Derek Holland, are available to come out of the bullpen in Game 163, an elimination game, against the Tampa Bay Rays. Yu Darvish is the only pitcher who won't be used.

    PODCAST
    Nolan Ryan joins Galloway and Company to discuss having Nelson Cruz back in the lineup and how the Rangers are feeling heading into their wild-card play-in game against the Rays.

    Listen Listen
    Ogando is the most likely to be the first starter used because of his experience pitching out of the bullpen. Washington said he'll just flow with the game and base his decision on how far to go with Perez on how his innings are going.

    "It just depends on what is happening," Washington said. "If he has issues in the first inning, it could be the first inning. If he has issues in the fifth inning, it could be the fifth. It could be the second, the third. We just have to see what scenario is being played out there."

    Washington said he'll work with his complete bullpen Monday night. The Rangers' pen has dominated during their seven-game winning streak, allowing one run in 20 1/3 innings. They have 27 strikeouts.

    Setup man Tanner Scheppers has thrown 36 pitches while throwing four straight days, so his low count helps. Closer Joe Nathan also has pitched four straight days and he's available for the elimination game.

    Keeping his pitch count down has been huge for Scheppers.

    "It helps him to allow us to use him," Washington said. "He comes in and pounding the strike zone. What Joe's been doing after Scheppers has been outstanding."

    Scheppers said there's no stopping now and that he'll be ready.

    "It doesn't matter anymore," Scheppers said. "You can't be down for (Game) 163."

    Put Gentry in ink: Nelson Cruz's return to the Rangers' lineup as the designated hitter means that Washington was able to keep Craig Gentry in at left field, which is good because Gentry is the Rangers' hottest hitter with 17 hits in his last 36 at-bats. He wasn't coming out for anyone.

    "I never thought about taking Gentry out of there," Washington said.

    Wash on Price: Rays starter David Price, the reigning AL Cy Young winner, has not pitched well against the Rangers. He has a 10.26 ERA in Arlington and has lost all three postseason starts against Texas.

    If the Rangers have a secret, they're not revealing it. "I can't give you that," Washington said. "It's something that happened."

    Washington said the Rangers have the utmost respect for Price, who is 9-8 with a 3.39 ERA this season.

    "We're certainly not that confident that we're going to go out there and destroy Price because of what we've done in the past," Washington said. "It's Sept. 30, 2013 and this is a different time and a different day. We just have to go out there and continue to play our game and see what happens.

    "Believe me, there's no one in this clubhouse taking Price lightly."

    Short hops: Injured pitcher Colby Lewis, the Rangers' best all-time postseason pitcher, will throw out the first pitch before Monday's game. He'll also be in uniform for the game. Washington said that Lewis and Matt Harrison will accompany the Rangers on the road if they make the postseason. ... The Rangers and Rays are the only teams in the major leagues with four straight seasons with 90-plus wins.

    SPONSORED HEADLINES

    TEAM LEADERS

    WINS LEADER
    Colby Lewis
    WINS ERA SO IP
    10 5.18 133 170
    OTHER LEADERS
    BAA. Beltre .324
    HRA. Beltre 19
    RBIA. Beltre 77
    RA. Beltre 79
    OPSA. Beltre .879
    ERAC. Lewis 5.18
    SOY. Darvish 182