A move that had been anticipated since March, but especially the past few weeks, was executed Monday night by the Texas Rangers.
Neftali Feliz is in the starting rotation, but the Rangers put him there in conjunction with a swift free-agent signing of All-Star closer Joe Nathan to stabilize the back of the bullpen.
The significant changes to the pitching staff also brought into question how seriously the Rangers will attempt to re-sign C.J. Wilson.
They said that the door isn't closed to adding the free-agent starting pitcher, but the Rangers like what they have in their rotation and at the back of the bullpen if Wilson signs elsewhere.
"We look at this almost as two acquisitions," general manager Jon Daniels said.
"We're getting a big-time make-up, big-time pedigree, big-time stuff closer in Joe Nathan. We're also moving one of the best arms in our organization and probably one of the best arms in professional baseball to the rotation."
Daniels and manager Ron Washington insisted that Feliz's blown save in Game 6 of the World Series, when he was a strike away from handing the Rangers their first world championship, wasn't a factor in their decision-making.
The move has been mulled the past two years, but more so over the past nine months after Feliz showed well as a starter in spring training.
He was a starter when the Rangers acquired him in the Mark Teixeira trade in 2007, and he started in 2008 and most of 2009 before the Rangers brought him to the majors as a set-up man during their playoff chase.
"It's a move we've been talking about and wanting to make, but the timing had to be right," Daniels said. "It had to be right for the team and also Neftali. We feel the timing is right now, and the availability of adding a guy like Joe made it that much easier to do."
Nathan, who turns 37 today and will be introduced at a 10 a.m. news conference, has 261 career saves and is a four-time All-Star. He had 47 saves in 2009, but suffered a torn elbow ligament in spring training of 2010 and had Tommy John surgery.
He returned in less than a year and was Minnesota's closer on Opening Day, but gave up the job in mid-April after failing in back-to-back save chances.
Nathan was back at closer after the All-Star break, and recorded 11 of his 14 saves in the second half for the 99-loss Twins. He went 2-1 with a 4.84 ERA in 44 2/3 innings.
Rangers scouts not only saw the return of his arm strength but also the command of his slider. Nathan passed his physical without issue Monday night.
"He's been in the fire before," Washington said. "I don't think there would be anything that can happen at the end of a ballgame that he hasn't already experienced."
The Rangers signed Nathan, who was born in Houston, to a two-year, $14 million deal that will pay him $7 million each season. The Rangers have a $9 million option for 2014 that comes with a $500,000 buyout.
His salary in 2012 and the $400,000-plus that Feliz will make is roughly the same amount the Rangers paid Wilson in 2011. Wilson, who met with officials from the Angels on Monday, is expected to command at least twice his 2011 salary as part of a multi-year free-agent deal.
Should the Rangers bow out on Wilson, the money saved on Feliz over the next four seasons of club control could help them lock up players to long-term contracts before hitting free agency.
While the door isn't closed on Wilson, the Rangers understand that he could land elsewhere.
"He's going to have some options, and we wanted to make sure we did, too," Daniels said.
Oliver wants to return
Free agent Darren Oliver, who lives in Southlake, was hosting middle school and high school students for a Thanksgiving event at Rangers Ballpark on Monday.
The 41-year-old relief pitcher said he is planning to play one more season and would like to be back with the Rangers.
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760