Once Joe Nathan decided he was gone, he was gone.
He didn’t go back to the Twins, trying to inflate his price, according to his agent, Dave Pepe. He was comfortable signing with the Rangers, and that’s what he did.
Nathan, 36, agreed to a two-year, $14.5 million contract with the two-time defending American League champions on Monday night, becoming their new closer.
Pepe said the Twins also made Nathan a two-year offer, and that “the prospect of a better deal was out there” from a third, undisclosed team. But Nathan, after eight seasons with the Twins, wanted the Rangers.
A dinner meeting with Rangers team president Nolan Ryan, general manager Jon Daniels, assistant GM Thad Levine and special assistant Don Welke about two weeks ago helped persuade Nathan to make the move, Pepe said.
“It comes with mixed emotions,” Pepe said. “He loved Minnesota. He had lots of friends there. He had lots of friends on the team. His wife loved it. His family loved it. They were great to him, and he was pretty good to them.
“But he felt there was a point in time (where he thought), ‘Wow, this is something I really want to do.’ Joe’s rear-view mirror doesn’t work too well. When he makes a decision, he doesn’t look back. When things happen to him, he doesn’t look back.”
The Rangers perhaps overpaid Nathan by $1 million to $2 million per season, but they believe that they also “bought” an affordable starter in former closer Neftali Feliz, whom they now will move to the rotation.
The Twins’ two-year offer is a good sign for the Rangers, indicating that Minnesota — the team that knows Nathan best — is confident that he is fully recovered from the Tommy John surgery that sidelined him for the entire 2010 season.
Nathan averaged 41 saves per season from 2004 to ’09 and showed marked improvement as he rounded into form after the All-Star break last season, holding opponents to a .654 OPS.
With the addition of Nathan, Rangers manager Ron Washington and his coaches need not vacillate about whether to return Feliz or even Alexi Ogando to the bullpen next spring.
Nathan is an established closer.
Nathan is their man.
— Ken Rosenthal