The Washington Nationals’ bullpen has struggled early in the 2017 campaign, but the team added to its minor league depth by signing 42-year-old Joe Nathan to a minor-league contract, according to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports (among others).
Nathan spent this past spring with the club, compiling a 3.86 ERA in 12 appearances before opting out of his deal with the team at the end of March.
While he failed to make the Opening Day roster, Nathan will have the opportunity to continue working toward making it back to the majors in the Nationals’ minor league system.
Joe Nathan is going back to the Nats on a minors deal— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) April 9, 2017
Nathan split last year between stints with the Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants. He finished the year with a 0.00 ERA in 10 appearances but failed to stick and wound up a free agent by the end of the season.
The all-time MLB leader in save percentage at 89.1 percent, Nathan was one of the premier closers in all of baseball from 2004-2013.
He’s a six-time All-Star and has eclipsed 35 saves or more in nine different seasons.
However, a second career Tommy John surgery in 2015 derailed his plans and ultimately led to his decline.
He hasn’t thrown more than seven innings in a season since 2014 and hasn’t been particularly effective since 2013.
The Nationals, who currently ranks near the bottom of the league with a 7.52 ERA, added Nathan as a much-needed depth option. If he’s able to to return to anything resembling his All-Star form, it will provide a boost for the Nats’ relief corps.
Nathan will likely head to AAA-Syracuse for now, but his progress at the minor-league level is certainly something for Nats fans to keep an eye on.