Six-time All-Star Joe Nathan will formally announce his retirement in a press conference at Target Field on Friday, the Twins announced. The Twins will not only host Nathan’s press conference, they’ll honor arguably the best reliever in franchise history in a pregame ceremony prior to Friday’s game against the Royals.
Nathan, 42, broke into the Majors as a 24-year-old with the Giants in 1999, but he didn’t establish himself as a quality big league reliever until his age-28 season in San Francisco. Few would’ve predicted that he’d go on to solidify himself as one of the best relievers on the planet in the years to come, but the Twins were the beneficiary of Nathan’s late-blooming right arm. Minnesota acquired Nathan, Francisco Liriano and right-hander Boof Bonser from the Giants in exchange for the final year of A.J. Pierzynski’s contract in a swap that would help to serve as a foundational move for a sustained run of division contenders in the final years of the Metrodome in Minneapolis.
Nathan spent eight years in a Twins uniform (though his 2010 season was lost to Tommy John surgery), during which time he posted a sensational 2.16 ERA with averages of 10.9 strikeouts and 2.6 walks per nine innings pitched. From 2004-09, in particular, Nathan dominated to the tune of a 1.87 ERA with an average of 41 saves per season. Overall, Nathan saved 260 games for the Twins from 2004-11, helping Minnesota to the postseason in 2004, 2006 and 2009 (in addition to a Game 163 playoff against the White Sox in 2008).
Following his time in Minnesota, he enjoyed two excellent seasons with the Rangers before signing one last significant contract: a two-year deal with the Tigers. Nathan struggled in his first season in Detroit, then missed nearly the entire second season of that pact due to another Tommy John surgery.
Undeterred by another UCL tear at the age of 40, Nathan rehabbed his elbow and worked his way back to the big leagues at the tail end of the 2016 season, tossing a combined 6 1/3 scoreless innings for the Cubs and the Giants. He inked a minor league deal with the Nationals this winter but wasn’t able to crack the team’s big league roster in Spring Training. After two months pitching for Washington’s Triple-A affiliate, Nathan requested his release.
Nathan’s career will officially come to a close with a 64-34 record and 377 saves. He’ll retire with a lifetime 2.87 ERA, 9.5 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, roughly 27 wins above replacement under his belt (per rWAR and RA9-WAR) and more than $86MM in career earnings. Twins fans will remember Nathan for his quirks on the mound, his leadership on the pitching staff and one of the most prolonged stretches of dominance of any pitcher in Twins history. Congratulations to Joe on an outstanding career.