MINNEAPOLIS Now that Joe Nathan has officially signed with the Texas Rangers, the search for a new closer is under way for the Minnesota Twins.
"We're going to look at the market and look at the possibility of trades any avenue, actually," Twins general manager Terry Ryan said Tuesday. "But there's plenty of people out there in that market this year. It's unusual that there are so many closers out there."Nathan, 37, signed a two-year deal to close for the American League-champion Rangers. He was a free agent this season, and had options from multiple teams. Ryan said the Twins had an offer on the table for Nathan after initially declining his 12.5 million club option. But Nathan chose to instead head to Texas, leaving behind a team with which he set the franchise record for most career saves."I was a little surprised. I don't think there's any question," Ryan said. "I don't think this was a money-oriented decision. I think this was a situation where Joe felt good about the Rangers and of course what they've accomplished the last couple years going to the World Series. I believe that probably was the breaker in his deciding to go to Texas."Nathan had Tommy John surgery in the spring of 2010 and missed the entire season. He returned to the Twins in 2011 but dealt with arm issues early in the year. After a disappointing start, however, Nathan finished the year strong, proving to Minnesota and other teams that he was back to form."He was healthy enough. There's no doubt about that," Ryan said. "He got out there and took the ball. His stuff was pretty close (to where it was before surgery). I don't doubt that health-wise; that's not an issue here. He did the job when we put him out there and he had a pretty good second half for us this year."Now, Minnesota must figure out who will close games in the ninth inning and replace Nathan. One name that has been mentioned is left-hander Glen Perkins, who had a breakout year with the Twins in 2011. The 28-year-old Perkins posted a 2.48 ERA while striking out 65 batters in 61 23 innings pitched en route to being named both the Twins' Most Improved Player and Pitcher of the Year.But Perkins, a former starter, was used in a setup role in 2011. He saved two games for the Twins, but otherwise has limited exposure in ninth-inning situations.Ryan said he doesn't see Perkins as Minnesota's next closer."He doesn't have any experience in that role," Ryan said. "I think you're wise to ultimately see if you can find a guy with experience."One option that does have closing experience is Matt Capps, who closed games for the Twins in 2010 and part of 2011. Minnesota acquired Capps in a trade with Washington during the 2010 season and had 16 saves in 27 appearances with the Twins that year.The results were much different for Capps in 2011. Nathan opened the year as the team's closer but took himself out of that role after early-season struggles. Minnesota inserted Capps back into the closer's role, but Capps blew nine saves and was booed off the field by Twins fans on more than one occasion.Like Nathan, Capps is also a free agent, but Ryan said the Twins would be interested in bringing him back as the closer."Yeah, he'd be an option," Ryan said. "We know he had a difficult year last year, but he certainly was good two years ago."Regardless of who ends up closing games for the Twins in 2012, Ryan knows the team will miss Nathan in late-game situations. Nathan initially came to Minnesota from San Francisco as part of a trade after the 2003 season. In seven seasons with the Twins, he saved 260 games, surpassing former closer Rick Aguilera's franchise record of 254."He meant a lot to us, there's no doubt. He set an all-time saves record, which is saying something," Ryan said. "I think when he came on the scene here a long time ago, we were looking for a closer and I'll be darned if he didn't meet exactly what our standards were. He got the job done."