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Detroit Tigers links: Cause and effect; Doug Fister and Joe Nathan

Going by the reaction of the baseball pundits, hipsters and talking heads, the controversial trade of Doug Fister and subsequent signing of Joe Nathan will forever be intertwined.


On what may have been the craziest off season day in MLB history, the Tigers played a big part in the madness with their still yet to be officially announced signing of closer Joe Nathan. But the reaction to Nathan's reported two-year, $20 million contract was mixed, many believing Doug Fister was traded only in order to clear payroll for Nathan.

Drew Sharp usually hates everything (the B1G, the Detroit Lions, kids, old people, life in general), but he continues to ingratiate himself with the Tigers' brain trust by praising the Nathan deal. Sharp plays the "It's all part of a larger plan" card.

Joe Nathan is the big name, but other new Detroit Tigers will be just as important
Drew Sharp, Detroit Free Press

They’re committed to spend where necessary to win the World Series within the next two years. But they’re also committed to integrate young talent into the lineup so that if ownership pulls the plug on extravagance after 2015, the Tigers could still have a workable core of one or two high-priced superstars with a collection of potential up-and-coming (and inexpensive) stars.

Lynn Henning plays the same card as Sharp. After trading Fister and inking Nathan to a deal, up next has to something even bigger. Henning insists the Tigers are laying the groundwork for a huge move.

Tigers' Dave Dombrowski still has dealing to do
Lynn Henning, Detroit News

The possibilities are vast as Dombrowski clearly prepares his audience for something big and perhaps adventuresome, which was the message again Monday as he said, at various times, the Tigers were not "by any means" done.

Rob Neyer is more than a little disingenuous in claiming the Tigers essentially traded Fister for Nathan, ignoring the fact they were going to sign a top closer no matter what.

Trading Doug Fister for Joe Nathan
Rob Neyer, Baseball Nation

On paper, 200 very good innings are more valuable than 65 excellent innings. And Fister -- again, unless there's something we don't know -- seems like an exceptionally sure thing, as his skills have essentially remained static (and impressive) over the last three seasons. Nathan's skills might be just as stable, but due to the nature of his work, his ERA's aren't stable at all. In 2012, he posted a 2.80 ERA; this year it was half that, in part because he gave up only two home runs all season. Which isn't going to happen again.

At Grantland,  Michael Baumann makes the Fister - Nathan connection as well. Also, baseball writers apparently love to use the term, 'in a vacuum.'

SLOW DOWN, BASEBALL! Making Sense of the (Roughly) 4,971 Moves We Just Saw
Michael Baumann, Grantland

Even at age 39, Nathan should be the kind of knockout closer the Tigers haven’t boasted in years. And that means a lot for a GM who, when tasked with finding bullpen depth, is as likely to return with a bathyscaphe as a reliable arm. But while Nathan's signing makes sense in a vacuum, making room for the closer by moving Fister for 40 cents on the dollar simply doesn't.

At Fangraph's sister site Rotographs, Eno Sarris believes the Nathan contract is extremely risky. Why? Because Nathan is OLD.

Joe Nathan, Tiger for two years
Eno Sarris, Rotographs

So the Tigers started at the back end of the bullpen and are finalizing the details for a two-year contract with Joe Nathan. They had the money because of recent cost-saving measures, and they had the need, and the contract isn’t long. What’s the prognosis for Nathan over the next two years?

Maybe the risk is no worse than you would have with any other established 39-year-old reliever, which is to say, a ton.

To no one's surprise, ESPN's Keith Law hates the Nathan deal. Though he writes as if the Tigers are done with the rebuilding of their bullpen, which is, well, stupid. No way in Hell is Dave Dombrowski done.

Tigers make a mistake in strategy
Keith Law, ESPN Insider

Viewed in a vacuum, the Tigers just misdiagnosed their bullpen problem as an isolated issue with the ninth inning rather than a lack of depth or quality across the board. Signing Joe Nathan to a two-year deal isn't excessive, as he probably has at least that many years of production left in the tank. But Nathan has started to lose velocity and had to shift to heavier usage of his slider as a result, and he's a traditional, one-inning, break-glass-only-in-case-of-save-situation closer, the kind of player usage foisted on us by a stupid stat invented by a writer decades ago. I hope Nathan sends Jerome Holtzman's heirs a fruit basket.

At Motor City Bengals, Matt Snyder looks at the Tigers' bullpen as a whole after the Nathan signing. It gave me shivers down my spine. Please, please, please, Mr. Dombrowski! Bring us a setup man or two!

Where the Detroit Tigers Bullpen Stands With Joe Nathan in the Mix
Matt Snyder, Motor City Bengals

It seems like pitchers such as Coke, Krol, Putkonen, Evan Reed, and Jose Ortega should be battling for two spots not four, but, as it stands now, more than half of the pen stands to be comprised of those fringy type guys.

At the very least, Nathan makes Dayn Perry's list of closers who, when combined, make the 'perfect reliever.'

Creating baseball's perfect reliever
Dayn Perry, CBS Sports

Joe Nathan's stamina

This past season, Nathan was tied for third in MLB with 27 appearances on zero days' rest -- or more than 40 percent of his overall appearances. Twice in 2013 he pitched four straight days, and on three other occasions he pitched three straight days. As well, 2013 marked the seventh time in Nathan's career that he pitched at least 20 times on zero days' rest. Keep in mind that, since Nathan is a closer, those are largely high-leverage, high-stress innings he's throwing.

When sabernetric guru Lee Panas at Tiger Tales likes a free agent signing, and he approves of the Nathan deal, that's a very good sign.

Tigers Sign Joe Nathan to be Closer
Lee Panas, Tiger Tales

The best thing about Nathan is that he has been consistently dominant since 2003 other than missing 2010 due to Tommy John surgery and struggling to recover in 2011.  In fact, only three pitchers - Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman and Goose Gossage have higher lifetime WPAs than Nathan.  That is some impressive company.

And no link dump is complete without adding Rogo's latest at Tiger Snark. He's become a little slightly kinda completely unhinged by the Fister trade. In other words, he's preaching to the choir.

Trading Doug Fister: The Five Stages of Grief
Scott Rogowski, Tiger Snark

Stage Three: Bargaining

It can’t be that bad, right? There has to be a logical reason for this. Maybe this Ricky Bobby Robbie Ray kid is a stud and only Dombrowski is shrewd enough to realize it. Maybe EVERY NATIONAL WRITER in America is wrong and the Tigers didn’t get royally screwed here. Hey, look! Kurt’s trying to put a positive spin on this horseshit! Sure, nothing makes him happier than telling Tigers fans that they're wrong, but maybe it’s not so bad?