What Would YOU Do? Joe Nathan Edition

10 Oct

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

I honestly had already started the blog entry before the Friday night debacle because I do think that it is an interesting topic for discussion. I also think that it is important to step back from any one game in making these types of decision. Much as I don’t think that the Twins front office should decide what to do with Orlando Cabrera based on what he did in the final couple of weeks. The Twins should certainly not make any decisions based on Joe Nathan’s blown save in a must-win against the Yankees in the playoffs. So, here are some quick pros and cons:

Pros

  • In his six years as Twins closer, he is 22-12 with a 1.87 ERA. His WHIP has been 0.93.
  • 246 saves in six seasons.
  • In 2009, he set a Twins record with 47 saves. He was 2-2 with a 2.10 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP.
  • After his strikeout rate dropped to 9.7 and 9.8 in 2007 and 2008, it jumped back up to 11.7 in 2009.
  • Has only pitched between 67.2 and 72.1 innings in any season with the Twins.
  • Want a closer who dominates the AL Central. I would say that applies to Nathan:
    • Career vs. White Sox – .151/.212/.277 (.489), 3-2, 24 Saves, 2.06 ERA, 0.77 WHIP
    • Career vs. Tigers – .153/.248/.257 (504), 2-1, 30 Saves, 1.55 ERA, 0.96 WHIP
    • Career vs. Royals – .144/.204/.230 (.434), 3-0, 35 Saves, 0.85 ERA, 0.72 WHIP
    • Career vs. Indians – .201/.258/.360 (.618), 3-1, 26 Saves, 2.98 ERA, 1.02 WHIP
  • Aside from the Yankees, the only team that Nathan has a career ERA of over 2.98 is the Texas Rangers (3.72).
  • Called a leader in the clubhouse, and especially in the bullpen.
  • Is quite active in the community.

Cons

  • Will turn 35 years old in November. How many pitchers over the age of 34 continue to dominate the way Nathan has? I know, but Mariano Rivera is a freak!
  • Will make $11.25 million in 2010, $11.25 million in 2011, and has a $13.0 million option for 2012 (with a $2 million buyout). The dollars aren’t a concern, but coupled with his age, it has to be at least mentioned.
  • Career vs. New York Yankees (Reg. Season Only) –
    • .255/.333/.382 (.715), 0-3, 4 Saves, 4.20 ERA, 1.40 WHIP

I knew the Con list would be significantly shorter. Joe Nathan has been baseball’s best closer over the past six years. There is nothing about Joe Nathan, other than his ability to pitch well against the Yankees, to complain about.

So, in my mind, the big questions become:

  1. Who takes over as the Twins closer?
  2. What type of package could the Twins get for Joe Nathan?

Let’s start with the first. As you know, I think that any solid reliever who can dominate can be a quality closer. To expect anyone to be as good as Nathan has over the past six years is unrealistic. I do think that Jose Mijares has the stuff to get lefties and righties out (even though that wasn’t the case this year). Jesse Crain, if he is what he was in August and September, can certainly do the job. Jon Rauch? How about Anthony Slama? Or, could they bring in some hard thrower who had previously struggled as a starter to get the job done?

The second question is obviously much harder to project. Which teams need a closer, preferably National League teams. But for a dominant closer with a major track record who keeps himself in tremendous shape, you could expect to get two very solid prospects and maybe another player or two.

One philosophy that I can’t argue with is that it is better to trade a player too soon than too late. There is also a philosophy that says Joe Nathan is really, really good. Why would you trade him? Which side of the fence would you tend to lean toward? Obviously this is a no lose situation. If the Twins keep Joe Nathan, they continue to have one of baseball’s best. If they trade him, it would be for a package of players that would hopefully contribute to the Twins as long as Nathan has. To leave your thoughts, particularly additional Pros and Cons, please click here.

This is another of many, many decisions that the Twins General Manager Bill Smith will have to make after the Twins playoff run is complete (hopefully with their third World Series championship!). And when the Twins 2009 season does come to an end, the TwinsCentric group will give you a ton of great information to help you understand all of the decisions the Twins GM and present you with the opportunity to decide what you would do. (More details to come)

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30 Responses to “What Would YOU Do? Joe Nathan Edition”

  1. mike wants wins October 10, 2009 at 7:52 pm #

    Mauer and Morneau are in their prime. Now is NOT the time to be trading away great players for prospects. I am 100% against this idea, unless they get a young current starter for 3B, SS, 2B that is really, really, really good already in the majors. I am NOT interested in prospects for veterans right now.

    • Bryz October 10, 2009 at 7:59 pm #

      But what if Nathan brings back some ML-ready talent? Then would you reconsider?

  2. Bryz October 10, 2009 at 7:59 pm #

    Pat Neshek (if he proves to return to his previous form) would be a good choice in my opinion. Besides, who wouldn’t be intimidated when they’re trying to win a game in their last AB while facing a guy that throws like him? Jesse Crain has been discussed as a possibility before Nathan was acquired, but I think he’d need to raise his K rate a bit first before he can be seriously considered again (not to mention many people I go to college with might have a heart attack thinking that the Twins would trust Crain with every slim lead they have in the 9th inning).

    Mijares is a thought, but I’d prefer someone with a better BB rate. Slama and Delaney could be options as well, but I think I’d want to play it safe and see how they fare against major-league competition first before trusting them with getting saves.

  3. Shawn in Binghamton October 10, 2009 at 7:59 pm #

    I just don’t see anything the team could or should do here. If they don’t believe in him anymore then they should move him and take 50 cents on the dollar. They probably do believe quite a lot. I’d start grooming someone next year to take over if ever needed, but otherwise, ya gotta ride it out. He’s been too good and has too big a contract.

  4. Mitch Oleson October 10, 2009 at 9:15 pm #

    I hate to be a jerk and his numbers don’t lie, but he is not clutch. We NEED clutch. We have faced the Yankees all too often and been embarrassed. I know what he has done in the regular season but when it counts, WHEN IT REALLY COUNTS….He chokes as do most of the players in the Gardenhire era. I think we need a real leader on this team. Someone who’s words are followed by talent. I don’t know who that would be right now or if we even have him. We need a leader..bottom line.

  5. Juanie October 10, 2009 at 9:21 pm #

    I absolutely hate the save statistic. It is the most overrated stat in all of baseball. I’ll never understand why a team would pitch their second or third best reliever (and probably 5th or 6th best pitcher on the team) against the heart of the lineup with the game on the line in the 7th or 8th just to save their best reliever for a less important situation in the ninth to get a save. The only possible benefit is to save the manager his job by “managing by the book”.

    I know hindsight is 20/20, but before Nathan even came in, I just knew he was going to blow it. I just had that feeling, but what does a manager do? If Gardy left Guerrier in or put in Mijares and they blow it, he gets questioned to no end and probably gets fired in the offseason.

  6. Ben W October 10, 2009 at 9:58 pm #

    In answer to the question, “who becomes the Twins closer”, personally I’m against the idea of having a “closer” in the first place. Use your best reliever when the situation calls for it, and don’t save him for a save situation that may or may not even materialize. I know that that’s not fashionable in MLB managing.

    Also, when the Twins traded A.J. for Nathan, Liriano, and Bonser, nobody knew whether or not he could take over the closer role. There’s probably a reliever or two on the Twins staff already that could close games and we just don’t know it because they’ve never gotten the opportunity.

    So my answer is, if you can get an MLB-ready starter and infielder, go ahead and trade him.

  7. TT October 10, 2009 at 10:07 pm #

    I doubt Nathan is on the list of decisions for Bill Smith, nor should he be.

    “I’ll never understand why a team would pitch their second or third best reliever (and probably 5th or 6th best pitcher on the team) against the heart of the lineup with the game on the line in the 7th or 8th just to save their best reliever for a less important situation in the ninth to get a save.”

    They don’t. The “game” is never on the line in the 7th or 8th inning. There is one more inning to play and, as we have seen recently, a lot can and does happen in an inning. The game IS clearly on the line with a narrow lead in the ninth.

    The only real argument is that a 3 run lead is pretty safe. Of course, that isn’t really true with typical bullpen pitchers either. How many games are lost after taking a 3 run lead. I would bet a lot, but not many of them in the ninth inning with teams’ best relievers on the mound.

  8. leonidas lantz October 11, 2009 at 12:59 am #

    he,Nathan is the 2nd best closer in MLB.only Rivera is better and i’ve seen him blow a save just like Nathan did so lighten up everyone.the game was lost possibly w/the stupid baserunning error by Gomez,should we get rid of him?,NO! or what about bases loaded and Gomez and Young go after the 1st pitch and hit infield dribblers? The twins had the game and gave it to the yankees.stuff the emotional decision making but don’t make Crain nor Mujeres a closer because they have shown nothing w/ re: to that role.

  9. Rick October 11, 2009 at 1:37 am #

    I have had time to re-collect my thoughts after last nights debacle. For whatever reason, the only team Joe struggles with is the Yankees. But we also need to remember that the Twins have many holes and closer is really not one of them. For example, a better left fielder than Delmon has shown, a better option then Carlos Gomez (he just can’t hit), a better option then Matt Tolbert at 3B, a better option then Cabrera, a better option the Nick Punto (please I know he has played well lately) and we would not be in all these close games. We are not a team that has the ability to put others away. God knows we had our chances last night. We are a year away from last year when we hit over .300 with RISP. But we still won the division despite that. Unfortunately the Twins are not even close to the elite temas. As well as Caberera has played, how many times would you of liked to seen Maurer hitting in the two hole this last few months? So I think the pitching will take care of itself next year. But a guy like Orlando Hudson at second and/or/both, Adrian Beltre would make us competive with the Yankees. Gosh, I mean, Cano is batting 8th and hitting .325 with 25 homers. A JJ Hardy might be able to be had for a Glen Perkins. The Twins are not in dire straits, but to be truly competitive with the elites some upgrades will certainly be needed. Were still the Central Champs. And I am proud of the Twins for that. If we can just make some key moves to solidify the offense we have a shot at being a possible elite team.

  10. Trevor October 11, 2009 at 7:30 am #

    Don’t see much of a decision here Seth.
    1. Team has other positions to worry about without unnecessarily creating another.
    2. We need to sign Mauer. Chances go down if Nathan is traded.
    3. We’re moving into a new stadium. Not the year to trade away your only pitching all-star.

    I see almost no discussion of this in the front office. A “decision” I agree with.

  11. TT October 11, 2009 at 8:00 am #

    “how many times would you of liked to seen Maurer hitting in the two hole this last few months? ”

    If we could only have Mauer batting all nine times … The fact is Joe Mauer is the teams best hitter and it batting third, right where he belongs. It would be nice to have someone who gets on base more batting in the two hole ahead of him and Morneau.

  12. Kunza October 11, 2009 at 8:20 am #

    Fans have to put their passion for the Twins aside and think in terms of good baseball decisions…

    Trading Joe Nathan is probably the smart thing to do. Now trading Nathan is not going to affect the Mauer situation if…. that money that Nathan was going to earn would be spent on a top pitcher like Lackey. Our 3rd highest paid player on the team will only be a factor in about 40 games a year. Think about that for a minute. Is that a smart way to spend your money for a “small market team”? A move of Nathan should at least nab you one really good position player and really good pitcher.

    Now… how about trading Carlos Gomez? I think it is quite obvious to everyone that the Twins have a mess in the OF/DH spots -something has to give. You can harp on Delmon all you want but at least he hit .285 with some pop. Go ahead all you Delmon haters, tell us all about his horrible defense, he can’t run, he doesn’t look like he cares… garbage… the fact is that when he had the chance to play everyday because that moron Gardenhire had no other choice, he started to perform. The Twins have actually helped Gomez “regress” in terms of his baseball progress as a player. I know he is good defensively. But in reality, what good is having another guy in our lineup (like Punto, Tolbert, and Morales) who can’t hit. It’s brutal watching Twins games when they get past the 6th spot in the lineup – that is the time to turn the channel or get some snacks.

    BUT…. everyone here knows the Twins will never make a move of significance. Never. So I guess we are all still left with our wishes in one hand a pile of crap in the other.

  13. Han Joelo October 11, 2009 at 9:56 am #

    While closers seem to grow on trees–every year a guy like David Aardsma (or Joe Nathan for that matter) reinvent themselves, or a new stud comes out of nowhere like Andrew Bailey–I’m not in favor of trading a proven commodity. At least not this year. I don’t think the Twins do it–Nathan is a team leader and has been loyal to the team. He probably could’ve gotten a bigger contract if he’d gone to free agency.

    Furthermore, who would trade for him? Only a good and rich team that needs a closer. The Phillies maybe. The Angels possibly. Cardinals maybe. Cubs?

  14. coolbrees15 October 11, 2009 at 10:36 am #

    I would not trade Joe Nathan yet. I think the candidate that most likely should be traded this offseason is Michael Cuddyer. His value has never been higher then it is right now. The tear he went on in September would in theory allow the Twins to gain several excellent prospects for him. Maybe a 3B, 2B, or SS that would be the long term answer at the position. Especially since even if Cabrera is resigned he is only a short term solution and there is no sure fire SS prospect in the Twins minor league system. Realistically for Cuddyer who is under contract for one more year the Twins could get a top infield prospect and several quality pitching prospects. I know Cuddyer is popular in the locker room but look at it this way the Twins have four outfielders now who need to play every day. Gomez is still young and developing and under team control for a few more years. Same goes to Span and Young. Cuddyer is over 30 and is quite expensive to keep around. The only way I would keep Cuddyer is if he would agree to move to third base and shows the ability to play there defensively. If he could do that it would solve one of the problems they have. I think Cuddyer is who the Twins need to pull the trigger on and trade not Nathan.

  15. Mitch_Hedbergs_Adopted_Son October 11, 2009 at 10:39 am #

    I think you’d have to get top-end, ready-to-contribute talent for Nathan. I don’t think that happens.

    And stop ripping on Gomez. He was rushed way more than he should have been. Now, you could (and I do) argue he should be in Triple-A. But the guy plays maybe the best CF in the AL, and he has shown improvements in his peripheral stats. His K% dropped this year, his Isolated Power, Walk% and Line Drive% rose this year, and he’s making these improvements with somewhat limited playing time and while facing pitching that is, basically, out of his league. Give Gomez a chance, it’s not like he’s a 1B, where you need huge offensive numbers.

  16. armadillo44 October 11, 2009 at 10:53 am #

    I was up with a one year old who could sleep the other night after I had watched game 2 of the Twins/Yankees. It gave me some time to think about the team should do and the funny thing is, the move I came to was to trade Nathan. Don’t get me wrong he is an elite player (and his blown save doesn’t change that). I just think that with Rauch on the team now, Nesheck and Bonser coming back, and Liariono likely being moved to relief, our pen has become a strength and if we make a trade thats where you could spare a player (and Nathan would easily have excellent trade value). I’m not saying you trade him for just anybody, but if by trading him you could either get back or sign a real ace for the starting rotation then I would pull the trigger on that deal in a heartbeat. Of course to get a good starter you’d still have to include some other players (a good prospect + a serviceable starter) or it might have to be a multi team trade, but they have to look into it.

  17. Greg October 11, 2009 at 12:10 pm #

    What a waste of a column to event think about such an idea. I am sure the front office is not even blinked an eye.

    Bigger issue’s are ahead for Twin 3rd base and starting pitcher.

    Win Twins!

    • Kunza October 11, 2009 at 4:35 pm #

      Really? I still can’t stop laughing.

  18. Seth October 11, 2009 at 1:06 pm #

    Greg, what if you’re able to get a 3B, a young quality starting pitcher and a prospect or two for Nathan? You have to consider it. If you’re a smart front office, you have to think about everything.

    Like I said, this is something that should be discussed and should have been discussed well before the bad game.

    • Greg October 11, 2009 at 9:48 pm #

      Seth,

      nobody has that available nor would they give that up. they would thinkt he Twins are holding them hostage. i have always liked your column but this segment was too much and i don”t live in Minnesota.

      Twins got beat due to level of talent overall.

      For 2010 the Twins need a legiteamite(sp) power 3rd base for sure.

      We missed Crede the last 3rd of the season.

      keep Cabrera,Palvano and Mahay.. Plus, find one more SP.

      I also think a power RH DH/OF would help.

      Twins gave a great run, but ran themselves out of this series and the further against NY.

      of course signing Mauer.

      Seth, I still like you am just frustrated our team lost!!!

      Win Twins!!!

  19. Nils October 11, 2009 at 1:09 pm #

    NESHEK!

  20. mike wants wins October 11, 2009 at 3:11 pm #

    Who would trade a starting 3B and a starter that has been in the majors and another prospect for Nathan? Is there any team out there that would do that? Of course you make that trade if you are the TWins, but there is not going to be an offer out there like that, not even close.

    • Kunza October 11, 2009 at 4:37 pm #

      Don’t be so sure. Teams are always looking to dump salary. You have to at least take the responsibility of looking to see if a deal is out there.

  21. mike wants wins October 11, 2009 at 3:13 pm #

    Neshek has not pitched in two years, and people think he’ll even be pitching, let alone effective?

    And, the best reliever should come in in the 8th, if the best hitters are coming up in that inning, and not be saved for the ninth. That’s just logical, which is not something happening right now in most of baseball.

  22. TT October 11, 2009 at 3:41 pm #

    “That’s just logical, which is not something happening right now in most of baseball.”

    That’s because no one who actually manages in the major leagues sees the logic. With good reason.

  23. mike wants wins October 12, 2009 at 9:00 am #

    TT: explain the logic of having your 2nd best reliever pitch in the 8th, and facing the other team’s best hitters, to save your best reliever for the next inning to face the 6, 7, 8 hitters. I’m really interested in why that makes sense, because on it’s face, it doesn’t.

  24. Trevor October 12, 2009 at 12:54 pm #

    The bigger the game…the likelier it is that Nathan will blow it. If the Twins ever do make it to an ALCS or World Series in the near future – who among us has faith that Nathan would shut the door in a save situation? He’s I hate to say it – gutless, a choke-artist, bad news. Trade him now for some strong infield bats.

  25. Nathan October 12, 2009 at 8:31 pm #

    My issue with Nathan is that the Yankees are in his head. You can see it by his approach. He has a 95 mph fastball that he won’t use against them and instead nibbles at the corners with breaking pitches that are much harder to controll. His failure on Friday was precisely that. He didn’t go after them with a 2 run lead and instead nibbled. He returned to the fastball when he had to, but at that point, everyone knew that’s what he was going to throw, and it cost him. I’m perfectly fine with keeping him, but exploring the market makes sense too. I know our pen was shaky, but with Neshek and Boof returning and Slama and Delaney coming up from the minors, I’m guessing it will revert back to the mid-2000s as opposed to more recent years. I’m not saying he isn’t valuable, but if he can plug one or two holes, I’m all for it.

  26. Dennis Dorgan October 13, 2009 at 9:08 am #

    Trade Nathan? Dumbest idea to come along in a long, long time.

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