Joe Nathan made it clear late in the season that the Twins would have to show him they were serious about contending if he was to return for a ninth season with the club.
He's not returning, instead opting to join the two-time defending American League champion Texas Rangers.
Nathan agreed to a two-year contract with the Rangers for about $14 million with an option for 2014. The deal is expected to be made official Tuesday. Texas, according to reports, already has informed flame-throwing reliever Neftali Feliz that he is headed for the starting rotation after saving 72 games over the past two seasons.
Nathan leaves a team that went to the postseason four times over eight seasons with him. But the 2011 Twins lost 99 games and have to turn a lot of things around to be a contender again.
"The Twins were a team we loved, my family loved being with," Nathan said Monday night. "At the same time, I felt like I didn't know which direction they were heading.
"When we sat down and finally talked with the Rangers and talked with some of the guys in the front office we clicked and felt this would be a good fit. We wanted to pursue this and see where we could go with this."
Nathan received interest from 10 teams and offers from six. After having dinner with Hall of Fame owner Nolan Ryan and the rest of the Rangers organization, Nathan decided to end his tenure with the Twins.
"Obviously with the Twins and the opportunity they gave me, this was a huge decision for us to move over to this club and say goodbye to an era with the Twins," he said. "It was bittersweet, but we knew once we started talking with this team that this could be a very good fit."
Nathan, who turns 37 Tuesday, became a free agent after the season when the Twins declined to pick up his $12 million option on his contract, instead paying him a $2 million buyout.
"You hate to see him go elsewhere," Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said. "But that's what happens in free agency. He ultimately decided that Texas was the spot where he wanted to pitch. They have a good club in Texas."
The Twins made an offer to Nathan just before he became a free agent, and indications are that they were willing to offer him something in the range of what he's getting with Texas.
"We had an offer on the table," Ryan said. "He ended up going to Texas."
Rangers GM Jon Daniels told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "We're getting a big-time make-up, big-time pedigree, big-time stuff closer in Joe Nathan. We're also moving one of the best arms in our organization and probably one of the best arms in professional baseball to the rotation."
With Nathan leaving for a proven contender, the Twins remain interested in re-signing Michael Cuddyer but could turn toward Jason Kubel if Cuddyer signs elsewhere.
The Twins will be forced to come up with another closing option. Ryan said they remain interested in bringing back Matt Capps. They also could choose from several free-agent closers; available ones include Heath Bell, Jonathan Broxton, Francisco Rodriguez and others.
"We have to look and see who's available," Ryan said, "whether it's through a trade or the free-agent market."
Indications are that the Twins prefer to add a closer rather than hand those duties to lefthander Glen Perkins, who had breakout 2011 as a setup man.
Nathan missed all of 2010 while recovering from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery and is an unranked free agent, meaning the Twins will not receive a draft pick as compensation.
He had his ups and downs in 2011 working his way back from the surgery, losing his closing role to Capps in April but regaining it in July. He was 2-1 with a 4.84 ERA and 14 saves.
Nathan came to the Twins with Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser from San Francisco for A.J. Pierzynski in November 2003. He had little experience as a closer but became one of the best in the game while with the Twins. He leaves with 260 career saves, a team record. He tied the record July 26 at Texas and set it Aug. 10 against Boston.
Nathan reached 10-and-5 status with the Twins this past season -- 10 years in the major leagues and five with the same team, meaning he had a full no-trade clause. The club approached him near the July 31 trade deadline about waiving his 10-and-5 rights, but he declined.
"The Twins have been first-class about this," said Dave Pepe, Nathan's agent.Note
Catcher Ryan Doumit, who agreed to a one-year, $3 million contract last week, will undergo his physical Tuesday. The Twins are expected to officially announce the deal Wednesday.