The Twins on Tuesday declined to pick up a $12.5 million team option on Joe Nathan, but general manager Bill Smith said the team still thinks the right-hander can be Minnesota's closer in 2012.

"Joe Nathan wants to be a closer, and is a closer," Smith said. "Obviously if we've expressed our interest in him returning, it's to be the closer for this season."

Nathan, 37 next month, gets a $2 million buyout and unrestricted free agency. He could not be reached for comment.

"I expect him to test the free agent market and see what it offers," Smith said. "We're all on good terms; we have good relations with Joe and his agent. He's been a tremendous contributor to this organization. We had to make this decision first, and then we'll go from there."