Twins Wise to Decline Option on Joe Nathan: A Fan’s View

The Minnesota Twins declined a $12.5 million option on reliever Joe Nathan(notes) on Tuesday, Oct. 25. Instead, they bought out his contract for $2 million, making him a free agent. Although Nathan has been one of my favorite players on the Twins over the past decade, I can't help but feel relieved to see this move.

That's not to say I'm happy to see him go. Nathan was pivotal to Minnesota's successful playoff runs in the 2000s, and he is the team's all-time saves leader with 260. And the guy was just plain fun to watch. I have many fond memories of watching his distinctive mannerisms before every pitch, and when Nathan took the mound, you could always expect a win.

However, Nathan is no longer worth the money. He certainly wasn't the same last season, as he clearly hadn't fully recovered from his March 2010 Tommy John surgery. While Nathan may bounce back a bit from his disappointing 2011 season, he will always remain an injury risk. Plus, Nathan will be 37 years old at the start of next season, so he figures to have much more downside than upside.

Additionally, the free-agent market will be flooded with veteran closers this offseason. If the Twins can sign a good deal with one of them—perhaps Heath Bell(notes), Jonathan Broxton(notes) or Francisco Rodriguez—Nathan would be expendable. Otherwise, Minnesota could look to Glen Perkins(notes) to fill the role. Perkins had 17 holds and posted a very good 2.48 ERA last season, so he seems like a logical and less expensive option.

But even as Nathan leaves the Twins, there is talk of trying to sign him as a free agent. While I would find this emotionally satisfying, I don't think it would be the smart move to make. Nathan just isn't reliable enough anymore, and after last year's disastrous 63-99 season, the Twins will be best off rebuilding with young players. Unless the Twins can get Nathan back for a minimal price and don't expect him to be the closer, I think it's time for them to part ways.

Floyd Saunders is a native of Minnesota and a lifelong Minnesota Twins fan.

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Updated Wednesday, Oct 26, 2011