Have the Texas Rangers given up on 2013? They have fallen to five game out of the American League West division title race, but they are only 1.5 games out of the second A.L. Wild Card spot. Still, though, according to FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal, teams looking for a closer may have what Rosenthal calls "a stunning new possibility to consider."
Rosenthal reports that the Rangers may make closer Joe Nathan available for trade. That move may seem strange because Nathan has 32 of the Rangers' 33 saves this season. Michael Kirkman has the other save. Still, Rosenthal believes that a thin market for closers may allow the Rangers to forgo Nathan's $9 million team option for 2014 and get maximum return from a contending team such as the Red Sox, Dodgers, and Tigers, all of whom lack a dominant closer. In addition, one may wonder if the Pittsburgh Pirates might have interest in Nathan with the loss of Jason Grilli until at least late August, possibly late September.
If Nathan finishes 55 games, then he may opt out of his contract and become a free agent regardless of what Texas plans for him. He has finished 39 games as of July 28. Two possibilities exist: 1) Nathan finishes the remaining 16+ games and becomes a free agent while helping Texas win games. 2) The Rangers do not allow him to finish his 55 games, thereby demonstrating that they do not want him to close. It would make no sense to pull him out of the closer's role just to avoid the opt-out. They might as well trade him now.
The best closers available for contending teams include Jonathan Papelbon of the Phillies and Kevin Gregg of the Cubs. Papelbon is not a certainty, though, according to MLB Trade Rumors' Aaron Steen, who has also reported the Rangers' possibility of trading Nathan. That leaves only Gregg. The Cubs, though, have made no secret of their plans to trade pending free agents, and Gregg is one of them. The Cubs are the busiest team in this year's trading season.
Meanwhile, who would close for Texas? They have two former closers on their roster who could step right in. Joakim Soria had 160 saves for Kansas City from 2007 to 2011. Neftali Feliz saved 72 games for Texas from 2010-2011. He is expected back in late August to early September. Steen also notes that the Rangers could fit Alexi Ogando, a former reliever, into the closer's role.
The Rangers may not have given up on 2013, but they see an opportunity to trim some payroll and get some prospects in return. They have capable closers on the roster or returning soon. The non-waiver trade deadline is only three days away, July 31.
Follow Raymond on Twitter @RayBureau.
Like Raymond’s “Baseball Bureau” page on Facebook.
Looking for fantasy baseball advice?