Being a member of the Minnesota Twins is important to Joe Nathan. The organization made him a closer after acquiring him from San Francisco after the 2003 season, and he has thrived in the role, becoming the franchise saves leader this season with 259.

But also important to Nathan is winning, and if the Twins don't pick up his $12.5 million option, there is a good chance he'll finish his career elsewhere.

Nathan, 36, has never been an unrestricted free agent, which he'll become if the Twins exercise the $2 million buyout on that option, part of a four-year, $47 million deal signed in March 2008.

Because Nathan will be 37 in November and has yet to fully recover from Tommy John surgery performed in March 2010, there is a good chance the Twins will buy Nathan out, then try to sign him to a smaller deal.

"If they elect to buy me out, then we still have an option to come here, and we'll talk about trying to come back here," Nathan said before Friday's late game against the Angels.

"But at the same time," he quickly added, "that's what free agency brings, a lot of options. And you never know until you get out there and see what's available."

Since coming over the in the trade that also brought Francisco Liriano and Boof Bonser in exchange for A.J. Pierzynski, Nathan has become one of baseball's best closers. Before he blew out his right elbow during a spring training game in 2010, Nathan was 22-12 with a 1.87 earned-run average and 246