MLB

Nathan injury is enormous blow to Twins

Joe Nathan
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 9: Pitcher Joe Nathan #36 of the Minnesota Twins sits on the bench as...
Share This Story

Ken Rosenthal

Ken Rosenthal has been the FOXSports.com's Senior MLB Writer since August 2005. He appears weekly on MLB on FOX, FOX Sports Radio and MLB Network. He's a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter.

MORE>>
 
   
 
Good luck trying to replace Joe Nathan.

A trade? The Twins’ payroll already is approaching $100 million. Indians closer Kerry Wood, earning $10.5 million this season, would be too pricey. The PadresHeath Bell, earning $4 million, would make more sense, but the Twins do not figure to jump quickly.

The team’s style usually is more deliberate. General manager Bill Smith can try to add bullpen depth toward the end of the spring, maybe pursuing Jays righty Jason Frasor, who is earning $2.65 million, or someone like Marlins righty Mike MacDougal, who is on a minor-league contract. But the Mets and Cubs also are looking for setup types, and the Twins always are reluctant to trade prospects.

The consolation for the Twins is that neither the Tigers nor White Sox figure to run away from them in the American League Central, a division that also includes two weak clubs, the Indians and Royals. Smith can wait until the July 31 non-waiver deadline, re-assess the state of his bullpen, then add someone like Bell at one-third of his current salary.

In the meantime, Smith can pull his hair out.

Only a handful of closers are indispensable — Mariano Rivera definitely, Jonathan Papelbon maybe, Jonathan Broxton soon. Nathan is almost at Rivera’s level, and the Twins lack a Joba Chamberlain, someone with the stuff and mindset to at least project as a reasonable alternative.

POLL

  • After Joe Nathan's injury, who's the favorite in the AL Central?
    • Tigers
    • Twins
    • White Sox

The Twins had enjoyed a terrific offseason, re-signing free-agent right-hander Carl Pavano, adding shortstop J.J. Hardy, second baseman Orlando Hudson and designated hitter Jim Thome. They’re likely to sign catcher Joe Mauer to a contract extension shortly. And they’re moving into a new ballpark, Target Field.

Now this.

The loss of Nathan transforms the Twins from AL Central favorites into mere contenders. Short-term, the Twins simply cannot replace Nathan, who has a “significant tear” in the ulnar collateral ligament of his pitching elbow, according to the team.

Nathan, 35, will decide within two weeks whether to undergo Tommy John surgery. Wherever this is heading, it is not good. In the unlikely event that Nathan tries to pitch with the tear, his health will be an issue all season.

With Nathan, the Twins’ bullpen ranked fourth in the American League last season with a 3.87 ERA. The return of right-hander Pat Neshek from Tommy John surgery could provide another quality arm. But manager Ron Gardenhire likely will need to mix and match in the ninth inning; it’s difficult to imagine him anointing right-hander Jon Rauch or anyone else in the Twins’ bullpen as the sole replacement for Nathan.
Fantasy Baseball 2010

While the importance of identifying a closer remains a subject of debate in baseball, no one disputes the value of a closer such as Nathan. Managing a bullpen-by-committee is difficult; roles become less defined, and relievers often struggle when asked to perform in higher-leverage situations.

This is why the Twins made a four-year, $47 million commitment to Nathan in March 2008, a deal that seemed quite rich for them at the time. Nathan is in the third year of that deal, with a salary of $11.25 million. The contract, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, is insured.

Even if the Twins collected insurance on Nathan -- and received a substantial part of his salary back in the claim -- the money would help only so much in cushioning the blow.

The Twins need Joe Nathan.

They can’t buy another one.
Tagged: Red Sox, Indians, Twins, Yankees, Dodgers, Padres, Mariano Rivera, Jon Rauch, Joe Nathan, Joe Mauer, Heath Bell, Jonathan Broxton, Jonathan Papelbon

More Stories From Ken Rosenthal

Member Comments

Please note by clicking on "Post comment" you acknowledge that you have read the Terms of Use and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. Be Polite. Inappropriate posts may be removed by the moderator.

powered by



MLB Videos

Bautista talks Derek Jeter's final All-Star Game Posted: Jul 16, 2014
Jose Bautista discusses Derek Jeter's career and his final appearance in the MLB...

Jeter honored to play in last All-Star Game Posted: Jul 16, 2014
Derek Jeter compares his first All-Star Game experience with his last, Mike Trou...

Matheny defends Wainwright: He's out there to compete Posted: Jul 16, 2014
Mike Matheny comments on the media's reaction to Adam Wainwright's joke about le...

SimLeague Baseball - Simulation Baseball Game

More Than Sports on MSN

Fox Sports Store

    itemName itemURL imageSrc price itemDescription
    Nike New York Yankees Practice T-Shirt - Ash http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_New_York_Yankees/browse/featuredproduct/606363/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_606000/ff_606363_xl.jpg&w=100 27.95 Nike New York Yankees Practice T-Shirt - Ash
    Majestic Detroit Tigers 2012 MLB American League Champions Clubhouse Locker Room T-Shirt - Navy Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Detroit_Tigers/browse/featuredproduct/1064043/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1064000/ff_1064043_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Majestic Detroit Tigers 2012 MLB American League Champions Clubhouse Locker Room..
    Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker Room T-Shirt - Gray http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1067359/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1067000/ff_1067359_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker R..
    Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker Room Pullover Hoodie - Steel http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1067382/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1067000/ff_1067382_xl.jpg&w=100 54.95 Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker R..
    New Era San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker Room 39THIRTY Flex Hat - Charcoal/Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1067785/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1067000/ff_1067785_xl.jpg&w=100 31.95 New Era San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker Ro..
    Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Glory T-Shirt - Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1068294/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1068000/ff_1068294_xl.jpg&w=100 21.95 Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Glory T-Shirt - Bl..
    Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Batting Practice Performance Jersey - Black/Orange http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1068787/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1068000/ff_1068787_xl.jpg&w=100 94.95 Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Batting Practice P..