While the Twins bullpen struggles have been playing out recently, so has the apparent final chapter in the career of former Twins closer Joe Nathan, who missed most of the last two seasons after a second Tommy John surgery.
Nathan, 42, was with the Twins from 2004 through 2011. He was acquired from San Francisco (along with Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser) in the trade that sent A.J. Pierzynski to the Giants. He was the closer through most of the 2000s, when the Twins qualified for the postseason as often as not.
His first Tommy John surgery caused him to miss the 2010 season, and he left via free agency for Texas after 2011. Nathan went on to have three more productive years -- one with Texas and two with Detroit -- before the second surgery limited him to 11 games and 6 2/3 innings in 2015 and 2016 combined.
This spring, Nathan went to training camp with the Washington Nationals on a minor-league contract and lost out for a spot in the bullpen to Matt Albers. He struggled for Class AAA Syracuse, with a 6.19 ERA in 17 games. Seeing that he wasn't likely to be called up, Nathan exercised the clause in his contract that allowed him to leave the Nationals organization on June 1.
Nathan is the Twins' all-time saves leader with 260. (Rick Aguilera is second at 254 and Glen Perkins third at 120.) In 460 appearances for the Twins, he had a 2.16 ERA and yielded less than one runner per inning -- a WHIP of 0.96 that was inflated a bit by his final year with the team..
It is hard to imagine Nathan hooking on with another club. As Craig Calcaterra of NBCsports.com wrote: "Weirder things have happened, but at his age, and with his lack of recent significant success, it’s hard to see who would give him a chance to make their major league roster."
If this is the end, it would be a cool and proper thing for the Twins to bring back Nathan on a one-day contract, so he could retire as a member of the Twins. (In baseball, what typically happens is that players actually sign a minor-league contract with the organization to avoid messing with a team's 40-man roster.)
The Twins should also consider waiving the two-year waiting period that it typically requires before a player is put on the team's Hall of Fame ballot, as was done for Torii Hunter a couple of years back. After that, the only remaining question would be whether Nathan, eighth on baseball's all-time saves list, should have his No. 36 retired by the Twins.
Robbie Grossman could find a new number without much difficulty.,