A.J. Pierzynski celebrates with closer Joe Nathan.
With their massive fall in the standings over the last two weeks of play and their two wins in the last 10 games, the Texas Rangers might have to look a little while to find a strength on their team.
But as bad as the Rangers' offense has been lately, the pitching staff has been good, and the bullpen has been pretty great. Of course, a lot of that success has to do with all-star closer Joe Nathan, who has blown just two saves this year and is on pace for a career year with 32 saves so far and a 1.73 ERA.
After the Rangers dealt some of their top prospects, including Mike Olt and pitcher C.J. Edwards, to the Chicago Cubs last week for starting pitcher Matt Garza, the Rangers are still searching for a bat, or possibly two.
They still have plenty of prospects to deal, but for the sake of not draining their farm system like the Angels or Yankees have done in recent years, the Rangers are also considering dealing from their strength — and the biggest name to be discussed has been their veteran closer, according to Fox Sports columnist Ken Rosenthal.
If the Rangers dealt Nathan for a bat, the list of clubs that could match up with them in any such deal is pretty exclusive. You have to find a team willing to buy a 38-year-old closer and also deal an impact bat, so you're looking at surplus vs. surplus. Two teams that might have a fit are the Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Dodgers, and the Tigers made a move on Monday to deal for Astros closer Jose Veras, so they're off the table.
That leaves the Dodgers, who have four good outfield at-bats in Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and the hot prospect Yasiel Puig. Ethier or Crawford would be the names up for grabs, but with Kemp on the DL, you have to think the Dodgers won't be willing to deal any of those guys before the deadline, which is two days away.
Nathan has a $9 million option for 2014, and seems to be on top of his game, so it seems kind of crazy for the Rangers to deal him, but it would make some sense. If they did, Joakim Soria, a former all-star closer himself, would seemingly slide into the closer's role and with Matt Harrison and Colby Lewis (or Jake Peavy???) sliding into rotation, the Rangers could move Alexi Ogando back to the bullpen, where he best fits as a pitcher.
This is still a pretty fluid situation with the deadline approaching, but with the exclusive list of trade partners, it seems unlikely the Rangers will make this move, and Nathan isn't concerning himself with the talk.
"I didn't hear diddly," Nathan told the Star-Telegram on Sunday. "I've never worried about this stuff and I'm not going to start now. I'm going to play and try and help this team win. As far as my thought process, I'm battling with this team to get us to the postseason. This is the first time I've heard about it."