All signs point to the Twins declining Joe Nathan's $12.5 million option for 2012 sometime between now and the deadline to exercise the $2 million buyout three days after the World Series.
The Phillies made a similar decision Monday, when they declined Brad Lidge's $12.5 million, paying him a $1.5 million buyout. The Phillies also declined Roy Oswalt's $16 million option and made it clear they'll stay in touch with their agents with the possibility of signing them to new deals.
Lidge and Oswalt (and soon Nathan) will have their pick of other teams, of course.
* Interesting side note: Maybe the Twins will pursue Oswalt. They had their eye on him in 2010 before he got traded from Houston to Philadelphia.
It's going to be very interesting to see how the closer market shakes out, as the Twins and other teams will have a plethora of free agent choices, including Heath Bell, Jonathan Broxton, Matt Capps, Francisco Cordero (Reds likely to decline $12 million option), Lidge, Ryan Madson, Jonathan Papelbon and Francisco (K-Rod) Rodriguez.
Would the Twins be crazy to pick up Nathan's option?
The short answer is yes because $12.5 million is a lot of money for a closer, especially when there are so many alternatives. But a longtime MLB official made some interesting points:
* It's really a $10.5 million decision for the Twins because of the $2 million buyout.
* If they picked up the option and fell out of contention, they could trade Nathan in July, which makes it closer to a $6 million decision. (This is risky because Nathan has 10-and-5 rights, allowing him to veto any trade, but you'd assume he'd want to be a part of a pennant race somewhere next season.)
* Nathan has been one of the leaders of the Twins' pitching staff. Keeping him would give Manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson more comfort, as they look to rebuild a bullpen that struggled immensely this year.
Nathan figures to be better next season in his second year back from Tommy John surgery, though he will be 37. After moving back into the closer's role in mid-July, he posted a 4.09 ERA, held opponents to a .214 batting average, and had 21 strikeouts and five walks, while converting all 11 save chances.
After declining his option, the Twins will try to re-sign him. He'll test his free agent value, and the flooded closer's market could lower his price considerably.