DETROIT (AP) — Joe Nathan expects to fit in just fine in Detroit — and now the Tigers don't have to face the closer who has dominated them more than perhaps any other in baseball.
Nathan agreed with Detroit on a two-year contract with a club option for 2016, enabling the Tigers to accomplish one of their main objectives this offseason by adding one of the game's most accomplished closers to the bullpen. The three-time defending AL Central champions announced the deal Wednesday, two days after trading right-handed starter Doug Fister to Washington. Terms were not disclosed.
"Why would I come here?" Nathan asked rhetorically. "I think the question is, why wouldn't I? This team is ready to win. They're ready to win now. ... It's not just about getting to the postseason. For me, it's about getting to the big one."
Nathan, who turned 39 last month, has never pitched in the World Series. He had 43 saves in 46 chances for the Texas Rangers last season.
It's been a busy offseason already for Detroit, which traded slugger Prince Fielder to Texas for Ian Kinsler in a move that, coupled with the trade of Fister, gave the Tigers more financial flexibility.
Detroit's bullpen was unsettled for much of last season. Joaquin Benoit eventually performed well as the closer, but he is now a free agent.
"A very big part of what we were trying to accomplish was to get a closer," general manager Dave Dombrowski said. "This was always a goal of ours."
Nathan posted a 1.39 ERA last season, then declined a $9 million option that would have kept him with the Rangers. Nathan wanted at least a two-year agreement, and the Tigers were willing to give it to him.
Now that Mariano Rivera has retired, Nathan is baseball's active leader with 341 saves. He's pitched for San Francisco, Minnesota and Texas — and he's been particularly dominant when facing the Tigers, converting all 36 of his save chances with a 1.44 ERA.
That's more saves than any other pitcher has against the Tigers. Nathan even helped hand Detroit one of its most crushing losses in franchise history — he pitched in relief when the Twins beat the Tigers in extra innings of a one-game playoff for the 2009 division title.
"Probably the best game that I've ever been a part of," Nathan said. "Sorry to bring it up."