The Minnesota Twins got the news yesterday that they probably knew was coming, but didn’t want to believe. It’s kind of like when you took a test in school. You knew you failed it miserably, but you were somehow hoping for a miracle.
Yesterday, the Twins didn’t get their miracle. It was announced that All-Star closer Joe Nathan will undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the entire 2010 season.
It all started for Nathan on March 6th when he left a game against the Boston Red Sox for precautionary reasons because he felt some soreness in his elbow. That soreness prompted an MRI and that MRI found Nathan had a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow.
After Nathan was diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament, he wanted to rest his elbow for a couple of weeks to let the swelling go down.
Yesterday, Nathan attempted to play catch in hopes that his arm would feel good and he could avoid surgery.
Nathan’s elbow felt stiff during the throwing session and that was the end of that. Now the American League Central favorites will have to replace a guy who has averaged 41 saves, a 1.87 ERA, and 0.93 WHIP in six seasons since being acquired from the San Francisco Giants.
So where do the Twins go to replace Nathan?
The easiest way would be to first look at the Twins internal options. The Twins can choose from their bullpen for Matt Guerrier, Jesse Crain, Jon Rauch, Jose Mijares, or Pat Neshek to close out games.
Out of that group, only Rauch has experience closing out games. Rauch saved 17 games in 2008 for the Washington Nationals. However, Neshek might be the most intriguing option.
Neshek missed all of 2008 because he underwent Tommy John surgery himself, but is healthy going into the 2010 season. When he was healthy in 2006 and 2007, Neshek had a 2.68 ERA and averaged 10.6 K’s per nine innings.
Plus, since Neshek missed all of last season, it’s like the Twins are acquiring a pitcher without giving up anyone. Putting Neshek as the closer would allow guys like Guerrier and Mijares to remain in the roles they were successful in last season.
Of course, the other option for the Twins is to seek a trade to fill the void left by Nathan’s injury. There have already been rumors that the Twins are going to look at the San Diego Padres’ Heath Bell and the Toronto Blue Jays’ Jason Fraser.
While Bell would be a superb replacement for Nathan, there is one problem with trying to acquire Bell—he is going to come at a very steep price. The Padres are going to ask for the moon if the Twins want to acquire him before the season starts.
Here is my suggestion for the Twins. Go with what you have for the first couple of months of the season and then evaluate things.
If the internal replacements aren’t working, then look to make a trade in June or July. By then guys like Bell, Fraser, Kerry Wood, Matt Capps, or maybe even Trevor Hoffman could be available and come at a much more cost effective price.
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