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Red Sox never made offer to closer Joe Nathan

11.22.11 at 9:31 am ET

According to a major league source, the Red Sox talked to former Twins closer Joe Nathan but never made an offer to the right-hander before he agreed to a two-year, $14.5 million deal with the Rangers that includes a $9 million team option for 2014.

Nathan, after missing all of 2010 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, returned in 2011 while going 2-1 with a 4.84 ERA, 43 strikeouts and 14 walks in 44 2/3 innings (48 games) in the final year of his four-year, $47 million contract with Minnesota. He grew stronger as the season progressed, with a 3.91 ERA and 22-to-5 strikeout-to-walk rate after the All-Star break (compared to a 5.82 ERA and 21-to-9 strikeout-to-walk rate in the first half). Nathan reclaimed his role as Twins closer, converting all 11 of his save opportunities in the second half.

Nathan, who had been among the most dominant relievers in the game prior to undergoing Tommy John surgery, was regarded by multiple teams as a strong buy-low candidate, given his track record, the improvement of his stuff as the 2011 season progressed and the possibility of signing him to a short-term deal, perhaps later in the offseason, after the top closers (most notably Jonathan Papelbon, Ryan Madson, Heath Bell) came off the board.

However, the Rangers did not wait, instead moving early to lock up Nathan on a multi-year deal, a move that will allow Texas to move Neftali Feliz from the closer’s role to the rotation.

According to the source, the Red Sox were uncomfortable with the idea of a multi-year contract for Nathan given his age (he turns 37 today). That, in turn, could have implications for the Sox’ talks with another free agent, Francisco Cordero, who like Nathan, is coming off a four-year deal and who, like Nathan, will be pitching his age 37 season in 2012 (Cordero is six months younger than Nathan).

That said, it is worth noting that Cordero (who turns 37 in May) has been one of the more durable relievers in the majors for years. He has made at least 65 appearances in nine straight seasons.

While the ceiling for the closer market was likely set by Papelbon’s four-year, $50 million deal, it remains to be seen whether Nathan’s deal will be treated as a floor for the market, given that he was the oldest closer available and that he was coming off a two-year stretch in which he missed a year due to injury, struggled in the initial stages of his return and then began to round back into form.

Other closers who remain available via free agency include Madson, Bell, Cordero, Francisco Rodriguez, Matt Capps (who is open to a short-term deal as either a setup man or closer) and Frank Franciso, among others.

Read More: francisco cordero, Hot Stove 2011, Joe Nathan,
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