Arlington, Texas – The Texas Rangers formally announced this morning that the club has signed free agent right-handed pitcher Joe Nathan to a two-year contract for the 2012 and 2013 seasons with a club option for 2014. Financial terms of the contract were not disclosed, per club policy.
Nathan, who turns 37 today, went 2-1 with 14 saves and a 4.84 ERA (24 ER/44.2 IP) over 48 relief appearances for Minnesota in 2011. He was 14-for-17 in save opportunities and held opponents to a .222 (38-171) average with 14 walks and 43 strikeouts. Nathan missed a month on the 15-day disabled list from May 24-June 23 with a flexor muscle strain in his right elbow. After his return from the disabled list, he compiled a 3.38 ERA (11 ER/29.1 IP) over his final 31 appearances as opponents batted .193 (21-109) with 5 walks and 28 strikeouts in that season-ending span. He converted his final 11 save chances beginning July 16.
This past season marked his return to major league action after having “Tommy John” ligament transplant surgery on his right elbow on March 26, 2010. That surgery was performed by Dr. David Altchek in New York.
A four-time All-Star (2004, 2005, 2008, 2009), Nathan’s 261 career saves rank 28th in major league history. His saves total is the fifth-highest among active pitchers, trailing only Mariano Rivera (603), Francisco Cordero (327), Jason Isringhausen (300), and Francisco Rodriguez (291). Among pitchers with at least 175 career save chances (since 1969), he owns the third-highest save percentage in major league history at 89.1% (261-for-293), trailing only Eric Gagne (91.7%) and Mariano Rivera (89.3%) in that category. Over six seasons from 2004-09, Nathan led the majors with 246 saves, also ranking among big league relief leaders in ERA (2nd, 1.87) and strikeouts (3rd, 518) in that span.
Nathan is the Twins all-time club leader (since 1961) in saves (260), ERA (2.16), strikeouts-per-nine-innings (10.90), and opponents average (.186) among pitchers with at least 400.0 innings. He also has the lowest WHIP figure in Twins history at 0.96. Nathan has appeared in the postseason in four different years with San Francisco (2003) and Minnesota (2004-06-09). He also tossed 3.0 shutout innings over 3 appearances for the United States in the 2006 World Baseball Classic.
Nathan owns a career 1.75 ERA (22 ER/113.0 IP) against American League West opponents, and his 11.0 strikeouts-per-nine-innings versus West opponents is his highest figure against any division in the majors. He has converted 8 of 9 career save attempts at Rangers Ballpark, compiling a 1.98 ERA (3 ER/13.2 IP) over 13 appearances in Arlington.
With this signing, the Rangers now have 38 players on the club’s 40-man roster.