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Updated: November 21st, 2011 7:17pm
Joe Nathan agrees to two-year deal to become Rangers' closer

Joe Nathan agrees to two-year deal to become Rangers' closer

by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com
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The Minnesota Twins' bullpen just got even thinner.

Right-hander Joe Nathan signed a two-year deal with a third-year option with the Texas Rangers on Monday night. MLB.com reports the deal is worth $7 million for the first two years with a $9 million team option and $500,000 buyout.

Nathan, 37, made it clear his top priorty was to pitch for a winning team in 2012, but at $7 million per year he likely hit the jackpot financially as well. Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports the Twins offered Nathan two years, but that the deal was not as sweet as Texas' offer.

Twins' president Dave St. Peter tweeted the Twins were "never given the chance" to match the Rangers' offer.

The signing means Rangers' right-hander Neftali Feliz will officially move from closer to starter.

In a conference call on Monday night, Rangers' general manager Jon Daniels said his team signed "a big-time makeup, big-time pedigree, big-time stuff closer in Joe Nathan... and we're moving one of the best arms in professional baseball (Feliz) into our rotation."

Nathan posted a 4.48 ERA with 43 strikeouts and 14 walks in 44 2/3 innings last season in his first year after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but he showed significant improvement after the All-Star break. He surpassed Rick Aguilera as the Twins' all-time saves leader in August, and in his seven-year career in Minnesota he posted a 2.16 ERA with 260 saves.

"Both from the statistical performance, but more what our scouts saw in the first half and second half, they saw a guy that not only got his arm strength back, but got command with the slider and the sharpness of the slider," Daniels said. "It was kind of free and easy in the second half."

Nathan passed his physical in Texas on Monday night and was scheduled to be introduced to the media on Tuesday morning.

Nathan was originally acquired by the Twins in November of 2003 when GM Terry Ryan traded A.J. Pierzynski and cash to the San Francisco Giants for Nathan, Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser. The right-hander later signed a four-year, $47 million deal prior to the 2008 season.

Left-hander Glen Perkins now becomes the immediate favorite to take over the closer role for a depleted Twins bullpen, although Perkins -- with his versatility and ability to throw multiple innings -- could provide more value as a seventh and eighth inning guy.

The Twins continue to keep dialogue open with free agent Matt Capps as well.

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
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