Monday, October 26, 2009

Trading Joe Nathan, the Mistake the Twins Can't Afford to Make

The Twins cannot afford to trade Joe Nathan.


Not now. Not later this offseason. Not at any point before next year’s trade deadline, if at all.

Despite the battalion of pitch-fork wielding commentators storming Bill Smith’s gate (read: email account) with calls for Nathan to be jettisoned, it just can’t happen and here’s why:

First and foremost, he’s the only closer we’ve got.

If the Twins let Nathan go elsewhere, who finishes out the games?

Jon Rauch has experience, but fares much better in a setup role.

Francisco Liriano has the stuff for the job, but until he proves he can survive an inning unscathed, he belongs nowhere near the closer’s role.

Pat Neshek is a hot-option around most internet forums, but he has missed the better part of two seasons and is returning from two surgeries, not exactly the best time to put him in high-pressure situations.

Jesse Crain? Matt Guerrier? Jose Mijares? Yeah, I think I’ll pass.

Joe Nathan is the top option in the Twins’ bullpen and despite what one bad outing—against one of the top players in the game—may have people thinking, the Twins can’t afford to give up on a guy who has been neck and neck with Mariano Rivera since taking over as the stopper in Minnesota back in 2004.

Secondly, Nathan’s trade value—despite another typically stellar season—is at a low right now.

This isn’t to say anything about his actual skill or value, but let’s be honest here folks, if the Twins trade Nathan now it will be viewed as a desperation move.

It’s not like every other General Manager in the game quit watching baseball once their teams were eliminated. Everyone saw him implode in the ALDS.

As such, everyone will know that the Twins are trying to unload him in panic move, especially given his unexpected post-season surgery to have bone chips removed from his pitching elbow.

Good luck finding a team willing to ship over top prospects to take on $22+ million in salary for a closer whose previous employer is leery to keep around, despite coming off a season in which he co-won the award for the top closer in the game.

My third and final reason why the Twins cannot trade Joe Nathan is a simple one, the team is better with him onboard.

Since coming over to the Twins in the infamous fleecing of the San Francisco Giants, Nathan has done nothing but produce.

In six seasons with the Twins, Nathan has saved 246 games, made four All-Star teams, become a huge fan-favorite, and has established himself as the heir apparent to the aforementioned Rivera as the best closer in the game.

Sure he blew the game against the Yankees.

So what?!

Closers blow games, it comes with the territory.

Jason Kubel looked clueless and out of his league in the ALDS, would anyone like to ship him out of town as well?

My point is that we all need to just stop, take a deep breath, and avoid overreacting.

If someone had mentioned trading Joe Nathan while he was racking up save after save down the stretch and helping propel the Twins into the playoffs, you’d have laughed in their face.

Wait a few months, let the sting of another first-round exit subside, and then we’ll see how everyone in Twins Territory feels about trading away one of the best closers in the game.

I gotta think that come Spring Training you’ll be ready to go back in time and laugh in your own face for overreacting.

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