If you talk to most Texas Rangers fans, as well as some of the media around the team, you might get the same opinion when it comes to Joe Nathan. That opinion is he has played his last game in a Rangers’ uniform.
However, in the words of the great Lee Corso, “Not so fast my friend.”
While there are three young pitchers, Tanner Scheppers, Neftali Feliz, and Joakim Soria, who could compete for the ninth-inning job, what if the Rangers weren’t completely convinced that any of the three could get the job done?
Scheppers has the stuff and the ability. Feliz and Soria have the prior experience. But Nathan has the veteran saavy that the Rangers seem to really like. While it wouldn’t surprise me to see Nathan opt out of his current contract, I wouldn’t put it past the two sides to come to an agreement on a two-year deal to keep Nathan in the closer role.
So what happens to these other three, very capable, relievers if Nathan ends up staying put in Arlington? That’s a good question. Scheppers and Soria will stay in their roles, each taking the seventh and eighth inning spots in the bullpen but neither in one role or the other. Shared time if you will.
That leaves Neftali Feliz.
I’ll make this prediction because of the depth this team already has in the bullpen — Feliz might find himself in a trade package for a first baseman or a corner infielder.
With youth still on his side, and showing that he was healthy enough to carry a bullpen role at the end of the 2013 season, he still holds enough trade value where the Rangers can deal him with a package of other players, perhaps Ian Kinsler as well, and get a few pieces they could use in 2013 and beyond.
There are always teams looking for bullpen help and could use a player who still has a few years left of team control. Put that together with a veteran infielder and perhaps a low level prospect, you can get something you need and for more than just a single season (a la Matt Garza).
Keep in mind: this is just a prediction and a hunch on my part. There’s nothing more behind it, but be prepared for this to become a very real possibility when the off-season kicks off.