A Closer Who Fits With The Mets

The Twins declined their $12.5 million, 2012 option on closer Joe Nathan and will pay him a $2 million buyout. Twins GM Bill Smith has said that the Twins want Nathan back.

But not so fast.

While in some cases, the teams who have declined an option or traded a player would indeed be “interested” in bringing said player back (see Roy Oswalt and the Phillies or Carlos Beltran with the Mets), it’s highly unlikely that they’re going to pay the amount of money required to get them; so said interest is similar to me saying I’d like to travel into space—technically I could do it, but I don’t have the money to spare nor the intense desire to do so.

The Twins would have the cash available to bring Nathan back and are desperately in need of a closer with both Nathan and Matt Capps on the free agent market, but since they’ve already declined the option, Nathan will be in heavy demand as a moderate risk, massive reward for a short term 1-2-year deal.

The Mets need a veteran closer (they’re not going into the season with uncertainty at multiple positions again) and Nathan grew up on Long Island; went to Stony Brook University; and was a Mets fan growing up.

Nathan’s about to turn 37 and got off to a poor start in 2011 after missing all of 2010 with Tommy John surgery; he wound up back on the disabled list twice with a strained right flexor tendon related to his recovery, but as the summer wore on and he regained the closer’s role from the struggling Capps, he also regained some semblance of the form that made him one of baseball’s top short relievers for many years.

From July on he was mostly reliable and his strikeout numbers were solid (about 1 per inning); his velocity was consistently around 92 all season; and while he’s not what he was in his heyday, he’s a veteran who wouldn’t be intimidated by pitching in New York.

He couldn’t pitch on back-to-back days in 2010, so the Mets would likely have to have someone else capable of doing the job at least part of the time—they can have a spring training competition between Bobby Parnell and Manny Acosta and scour the market for pitchers who’ve been non-tendered; but with Nathan two years out from surgery, he’s a worthwhile gamble on an incentive laden deal to make a comeback at home with the Mets.

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