Well, now that big deal is done, the focus obviously shifts to the last "big" deal for the Twins: Arguably the top closer in the game, Joe Nathan. I think the vast majority of fans realize that it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to extend Nathan, as good as he is, at the 4 years/$60 Million or so pricetag it's likely to take. Heck, it might even be more than that, given the market.
As good as Joe is, and has been for this organization, the Twins obviously have options in the next couple years, including TWO very, very successful minor league closers in Pat Neshek and Jesse Crain, who apparently is at least ready to start the year (though how effective he will be is still in doubt, of course).
So now we are left with the decision of not if, but WHEN to deal Joe Nathan. Many have argued that he should be dealt at the deadline when teams go into panick mode. I would submit the Braves, Brewers, and Cubs as very possible candidates at later points in the year. Maybe the Twins even go bold and deal with the devils they know so well in the Central in the Indians and Tigers, both of which could stand improvements. Whatever the destination, there is definitely a school of thought that says to wait until the deadline to deal him. It's a risk, but there is higher potential there. I myself have been a believer in this school of thought for the last month or so.
But now I submit another counter/option to that; maybe we should deal him now, even if for a slightly lesser package, assuming a good one is currently out there. Why now? Well, this is my crazy thought, but perhaps we can deal TWO closers this year in that scenario. Here's the idea I present.
- Trade Nathan before the season for 2 high-ceiling prospects, preferably in my mind a near-future 3b or SS.
- Insert Juan Rincon, in his last year under control of the Twins, into the closers' role. Risky as heck, but:
- Rincon rebounds decently in 2008 and performs well in a closers' role.
- The Twins deal RINCON as one of the big "closer" candidates left at the trade deadline and get another good prospect.
Option A) We keep Nathan for 4 months, and try to deal Rincon and him for separate deals at the deadline. Rincon, even with a rebound as a 7th or 6th inning pitcher, maybe fetches one decent prospect. If he doesn't rebound, he gets almost nothing in return. Nathan gets 2 slightly better prospects than he gets now.
Option B) The hopeful scenario I suggest. Nathan gets 2 good prospects now--not quite as good as at the deadline--and Rincon does a good job as a closer, netting 2 decent prospects of his own, more than he nets as a "rebound" 6th or 7th inning pitcher. If he doesn't rebound, he still nets almost nothing.
To me, the downside of option B is not much. At worst, Rincon gets the same in a deal he gets now, fails as a CL, and Neshek rightfully takes over the role, as I would expect in 2009 no matter what anyway, unless Crain rebounds in a huge way. And Nathan gets 2 slightly worse prospects than he gets 4 months from now.
At BEST, in my option B scenario, we get 4 good prospects as opposed to the 2, maybe 3 we get in any other way.
I don't know, just throwing it out there, but I think this is worth exploring.