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Tigers sign Nathan to two-year deal

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Filling one of the largest holes in their roster, the Detroit Tigers added free agent closer Joe Nathan on Wednesday.

The 39-year-old right-hander signed a two-year, $20 million contract.

"We've tried to address our closing situation this wintertime," Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said. "We think that we've come up with one of the best in the game. We've seen him work throughout the years, and he really sets our bullpen situation up very well. We're thrilled to have him on board."

Negotiations with Nathan ratcheted up after the Tigers failed to work out a deal with former San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers closer Brian Wilson, shortly after trading right-hander Doug Fister to the Washington Nationals.

"Why would I come here? Shoot, I think the question is why wouldn't I?" Nathan said. "This team is ready to win. They're ready to win now. It's not just about getting to the postseason, but for me it's about getting to the big one, to get into the World Series. It's something that's not been a part of my career. It has eluded me, and that's what it's all about now for me."

Nathan appeared in 67 games in 2013 with the Texas Rangers and was 6-2 with a 1.39 ERA and 43 saves in 46 chances. The Tigers offered him a $9 million option, but he turned it down to pursue free agency.

Nathan is the major leagues' active saves leader (341), taking over that distinction from now-retired New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera.

Nathan is three years removed from Tommy John surgery. In 13 seasons with the Giants, Minnesota Twins and Rangers, he has a 2.67 career ERA.

Joaquin Benoit and Jose Veras weren't door-slamming, ninth-inning relievers in mixed roles with the Tigers in 2013. Detroit went to spring training in February envisioning rookie Bruce Rondon, a flame-thrower who couldn't find the plate, would be the primary closer, but he went to Triple-A Toledo when the Tigers broke camp in March.

That set off a full scramble by Dombrowski and manager Jim Leyland to set a pecking order in the bullpen, including re-signing former closer Jose Valverde. And with Benoit now a free agent, the Tigers had to move quick to fill the void if Benoit signs elsewhere, which now appears even more likely.

The move continued an active offseason already for the Tigers, who already made major news by trading hard-hitting first baseman Prince Fielder to Texas for second baseman Ian Kinsler.

In announcing Nathan's signing, Dombrowski also said star third baseman Miguel Cabrera would move from third base to first base to replace Cabrera. Nick Castellanos likely will take over at third base.

The Tigers are also expected to move left-hander Drew Smyly into the rotation in 2014, opening up another spot in the bullpen, which will have a decidedly different look. Right-hander Jose Veras will not return, as the team declined its option on him, and left-hander Ian Krol, obtained in the Fister trade, will move into the 'pen.
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