On Joe Nathan's 255 Saves and His Future With the Twins

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 10: (L-R) Pitching coach Rick Anderson #40 and Joe Nathan #36 of the Minnesota Twins hug following Nathan's 255th save as a Twin against the Boston Red Sox on August 10, 2011 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Twins defeated the Red Sox 5-2 and Nathan is now the team's all-time save leader. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

We've spent some time on this site talking about saves, and how it's largely an over-rated stat. Mostly it's over-rated because the save statistic often means a pitcher with a ton of them will be paid based just as much off of those save totals as any other number that pitcher puts up. Money is a big part of it. But it's also over-rated because with those saves comes an assumption that the closer is the best or most important reliever on the staff, which isn't always the case.

Player

Saves

Innings

Years

Joe Nathan 255 450.1 2004 - 2011
Rick Aguilera 254 694 1989 - 1995, 1996 - 1999
Eddie Guardado 116 704.2 1993 - 2003, 2008
Ron Davis 108 381.1 1982 - 1986
Jeff Reardon 104 226.1 1987 - 1989
Firpo Marberry 96 1654 1923 - 1932
Al Worthington 88 473.1 1965 - 1969
Ron Perranoski 76 360.1 1968 - 1971
Mike Marshall 54 274 1978 - 1980
Bill Campbell 51 460.2 1973 - 1976

None of this, however, means that racking up saves isn't an achievement. Because it is. Now Joe Nathan is the owner of 255 saves as a member of the Minnesota Twins, making him the leader in this category in the history of the franchise, and he deserves all of the congratulations and accolades that come with such an achievement. That's an average of 35 saves per season for more than seven years...but of course Nathan missed all of 2010. Which makes Nathan's achievement that much more impressive: he averaged 41 saves per year from 2004 - 2009.

And he's not done yet.

We heard from Jon Heyman yesterday that the Twins are expected to try and bring back Joe Nathan after 2011, and considering Nathan's status with this team it wouldn't surprise me to see him work with the organization to have a contract that is structured to help him finish his career in Minnesota a couple years down the line. Joe has always said he's liked it here, and no doubt both he and the Twins understand he'd have more job stability by staying with the team at this point in his career.

Nathan's current contract calls for a $12.5 million 2012 option, with a $2 million buyout. Picking up his option essentially means paying $10.5 million since the organization is already on the hook for the two, but considering the recent injury, the nature of the recent injury, the point Nathan is at in his career, and his performance this season I think everyone would be surprised if it is picked up. (His option escalators will not be reached.)

Considering that, at his best, Nathan was worth between 2.1 and 3.1 wins above replacement, a market-value contract for that level of production should earn him somewhere between $8 and $12 million per season. Taking into account the issues brought up in the last paragraph, the lower end of that scale would be more than fair. I'd offer Nathan a two-year, $16 million contract for 2012 and 2013 with an $8 million option for 2014. But that's just me.

As of this morning, Nathan is 29th all-time in saves in the history of baseball. If Nathan stays healthy over the next couple of seasons he's a good bet to reach 300 in his career, which would currently tie him for 22nd all-time with Bruce Sutter. I can't see him reaching 350, but I do think he still has two or three solid seasons left in him. Even if the best years are now in the past.

Congratulations to Nathan on becoming Minnesota's all-time leader in career saves. Here's looking forward to the next 50, hopefully as a member of the Twins.

Twins History of Saves Fun Facts: Among the top ten single-season saves leaders, only one entry takes place more than 20 years ago. Nathan makes the list four times ('09, '04, '05, '08), Aguilera three ('91, '92, '98), and Guardado twice ('02, '03). Only Jeff Reardon's 42 saves in 1988 go beyond the last 20 seasons.

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