The Twins have had a slew of great closers over the years: Jeff Reardon, Rick Aguilera, Eddie Guardado, and of course Joe Nathan. But we may have seen the last of Joe Nathan in a Minnesota Twins uniform. The Twins declined to pickup Nathan’s $12.5 million option for the 2011 season, instead opting for a $2 million buyout.
The Twins may want to resign Nathan, due to the rough state of the Twins current bullpen. In fact Twins General Manager Bill Smith said so in a statement. "I spoke with Joe and his agent this morning, and expressed our interest in re-signing Joe.”
It may be a tough sell though; MLB sources say that Nathan’s main priority is to play for a winning ball-club. It was only two seasons ago when the Twins won the AL Central, but it was just this past season when they finished in the cellar.
Minnesota may have an inside edge, Nathan’s been in Minnesota since 2004 and has become a fan favorite. The Twins acquired Nathan alongside Fransisco Liriano and Boof Bonser from the San Fransisco Giants in exchange for All-Star catcher A.J. Pierzynski and he instantly made an impact by becoming the closer right away and earning a trip to the All-Star game.
Nathan has been to four All-Star games as a Twin, won the Rolaids Relief Man Award, and is now the team’s all-time saves leader.
Nathan missed all of 2010 after undergoing "Tommy John" surgery and it took him a while to bounce back. He started 2011 as the Twins closer, but quickly fell out of that role. Later in the year, Nathan took over for a struggling Matt Capps and an altogether struggling Twins bullpen and showed great improvements. By the end of the year, Nathan was one of the very few bright spots for the struggling Twins.
It may be hard to hold on to Nathan, but with a team that might not have much to build around, he may be a necessary piece to hold on to. It may cost the Twins some money, but it’s going to cost money anyway to get this team back on its feet.