Joe Nathan's career came full circle in 2016, finishing the year with the team that drafted him back in 1995 -- the Giants -- after being released by the Cubs midseason. The 42-year-old was used sparingly with both clubs, tossing just 4.1 innings despite not allowing an earned run. While Nathan is a shell of his former dominant self, the grizzled vet's fastball was still sitting in the low 90s. He enters the offseason as a free agent, and a team may offer him a one-year deal to shore up their middle relief, but a retirement announcement from the former All-Star closer wouldn't surprise anyone either.
Nathan threw about 20 pitches in a bullpen session Monday and came away feeling great, Glenn Sattell of MLB.com reports. "Pretty easy day, just made sure my stuff was kind of in the zone when I wanted to," Nathan said. "For the most part, I threw strikes; didn't throw too many breaking balls. But mixed in sinkers, change." The 42-year-old is trying to resume his career after Tommy John surgery in April of 2015, and his lengthy resume makes him an intriguing wild card in a bullpen that currently lacks an established closer. The Nats have a history of adding veteran arms off the scrap heap every spring, so if Nathan can show he has something left, his chances of breaking camp on the 25-man roster might be better than you'd think. Whether that translates into saves and fantasy value, though, is another question entirely.
Nathan will be in the mix for the Nationals' closer job this spring, The Washington Post reports. He's thrown just 6.2 innings in the majors over the last two seasons, but Nathan has one thing going for him that none of the Nats' other closing options do, and that's experience. The 42-year-old has 377 career saves, eighth most in MLB history, and if he shows that he has anything left in the tank during spring training, he could give manager Dusty Baker the veteran security blanket at the back of the bullpen that he prefers. Nathan's still a long shot to even win a spot on the 25-man roster, much less a high-leverage role, but in deep NL-only fantasy leagues he could be an interesting stash on your reserve list.
Nathan signed a minor league contract with an invite to spring training Thursday, Dan Kolko of MASN reports. The 42-year-old appeared in 10 games with the Cubs and Giants last season, throwing 6.1 scoreless innings. He hasn't spent a full season in the majors since 2014, when he held a 4.81 ERA over 58 innings, converting 35 of 42 save opportunities.
Nathan is interested in returning to the majors for the 2017 season, Jon Heyman of MLB Network reports. The 42-year-old sat out all of 2015 due to Tommy John surgery, recovering in 2016 to throw a combined 6.1 scoreless innings with the Cubs and Giants. His last full season came in 2014 with the Tigers, where he posted a 4.81 ERA across 58 innings while converting 35 of his 42 save opportunities. With his age and injury history, it is difficult what to make of Nathan's desire to return. If he is miraculously able to repeat his 2013 numbers (1.39 ERA, 10.2 K/9, 3.1 W/9 and 43 saves), Nathan will find himself a home quickly. However, it is more likely we will see numbers closer to his 2014 totals (4.81 ERA, 8.4 K/9, 4.5 W/9 and 35 saves), which will make it difficult for the righty to find much value in fantasy. At this point, he's more of a "wait and see" option.
Nathan blew his first save appearance with the Giants, surrendering two hits and allowing both inherited runners to score in a 6-5 loss to Colorado. Nathan was brought in to clean up the mess Giants closer Santiago Casilla created but was unable to get the job done. While he technically blew the save, this loss was not on him. As a result of the implosion in the ninth, manager Bruce Bochy could be looking for a new closer and Nathan could be in the mix based on his past experience in that role, CSN Bay Area reports.