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At the end of July last year, it was clear to Twins fans that Jon Rauch was really struggling in the closer’s role. One two game stretch pushed his season ERA from 2.38 to 3.31. He was throwing a ton of pitches and walking more than he was striking out. The outs he was getting were hit really hard. The Twins felt the need to improve their overall bullpen by going out and acquiring a “proven closer.”
I was in the process of packing up and moving myself when I heard a rumor that Wilson Ramos had been removed from the Rochester Red Wings lineup. Soon after, there was a rumor that said the Twins had dealt Ramos to Washington for Matt Capps. I thought that was just crazy. Trade a top prospect, and a top catching prospect at that, for one of the league’s least intimidating closers, a guy whose numbers were not much different than Rauch’s? Unfortunately, it was not long before the rumors were confirmed. The Twins had traded Wilson Ramos and Joe Testa (left-handed reliever) for Matt Capps. I sunk. How disappointing! I wrote, “I was in awe, shocked that the Twins would give up their most expendable trade prospect for a reliever that, frankly, isn’t any better than current closer Jon Rauch.”
I did acknowledge that adding Capps made the Twins better in 2010. Torii Hunter and Johan Santana always whined about how the Twins always were looking to the future, but when would they go for it and stop worrying about prospects. This move did that, for sure. The Twins gave up Ramos, a top 4 Twins prospect, for a solid relief pitcher.
I don’t think anyone was or is any higher on Wilson Ramos than me. I ranked him as the Twins #2 prospect before the 2010 season. I saw him as a good defensive catcher who could hit for average and future power. There were several times that I outlined a scenario for Ramos and Joe Mauer to co-exist. Since Mauer will be around for most of the next decade, it is understandable that Ramos was expendable. However, I proposed a scenario where Joe Mauer caught 100 games a year and then DHed another 50-55 games. Wilson Ramos would catch 50-60 games and then DH 80-100 games a year. The Twins don’t have a ton of right-handed power in their lineup, and Ramos could have been that. In that scenario, you have your starting catcher and DH, and could still have a 3rd catcher to be there for emergency.
Instead, without Ramos, the Twins are left with a lot of great-defense, little-bat options at catcher in the minor leagues. Guys like Steve Holm, Rene Rivera and Danny Lehmann can be solid big league backup catchers. Chris Herrmann is a great athlete who can catch but primarily plays in the outfield. Danny Rams is a terrific prospect with power potential, but he is still playing in A ball. Jose Morales was traded because he was out of options and would not have made the team and would have been claimed and lost for nothing.
Losing Ramos is a huge loss, no matter how the Twins want to spin it. In his previous four games, he was just 2-16, but after his 3-4 game last night which included two home runs, he is now hitting .378/.440/.578 for the Nationals. His OPS is 1.018. Of course, by season’s end, his OPS will most likely be shy of .800, but he could be a very good player.
However, to say that it was a horrible trade is 100% wrong. And it is wrong on several levels. First, Matt Capps is still just 27 years old. He throws a good fastball. He throws a couple of pitches. He has good control, gets the occasional strikeout. He definitely can make things interesting at times, like most closers. However, the Twins wanted him to solidify their 2010 bullpen, and he definitely did that. He posted a 2.00 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP in 27 innings over 27 games in helping the Twins to the playoffs. He saved 16 games. Another reason that the Twins wanted Capps was because he would remain with the team for 2011 and serve as insurance for Joe Nathan in his recovery from Tommy John surgery. Well, it is just a couple of weeks into the season, and Capps is clearly the Twins best reliever and has taken over the closer’s role from Nathan. He has a 3.75 ERA, but his WHIP is just 0.83. Yes, it’s hard to believe he has just five strikeouts.
So, since the Twins acquired Capps, he has pitched in 38 games. He has gone 3-1 with a 2.54 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP. He has recorded 20 saves. He also has all of those intangibles that the Twins and the players really appreciate.
This isn’t Lou Brock for Ernie Broglio. It’s not even Larry Anderson for Jeff Bagwell. Frankly, this isn’t Casey Blake for Carlos Santana.
Did I like the trade at the time? Not at all. Do I like the trade in retrospect? Not really, I still don’t like it. But Matt Capps has been tremendous and everything that the Twins and Twins fans could have hoped for and more. In fact, would anyone be surprised if the Twins locked him up for the next 3-4 years to be their closer through the rest of his 20s? I wouldn’t. And I don’t think it would be a terrible thing at all. Forget the dollars. $7 million is not outrageous for what he has done for the Twins and in his career. Take away that 2009 season, and he has had a terrific career, and there is no reason to believe that he can’t remain very good. In a bullpen with so many question marks and so much uncertainty, Capps has been valuable for the Twins.
Ramos’s fast start this season, and the Joe Mauer early-season Disabled List visit certainly bring the trade back to the forefront. Those things are hard to ignore, but don’t ignore the impact that Capps has had for the Twins.
Note – The Nationals kept the left-handed Testa in Extended Spring Training and are asking him to work on throwing side-arm to maximize movement on his pitches.
Minor League Report
SethSpeaks.net Minor League Hitter of the Day– Oswaldo Arcia, Beloit Snappers
SethSpeaks.net Minor League Pitcher of the Day – Kyle Gibson, Rochester Red Wings
Red Wings Ramblings
Tuesday – Red Wings 0, Buffalo 5 – Kyle Gibson put together his second straight quality start. In six innings, he gave up one run on four hits. He walked two and struck out eight. Jeff Manship came in and gave up three runs on four hits (including two home runs). Chuck James got the final four outs and gave up a run on two hits (including a homer). Brian Dinkelman and Rene Tosoni each went 2-4. Jeff Bailey went 0-3 and is now 0-26 in his past nine games.
Rock Cats Report
Tuesday – Rock Cats 5, New Hampshire 6 (10) – David Bromberg put together his best start of the year, and unfortunately, he wasn’t able to see it through. In 5.1 innings, he gave up one run on five hits. He walked one and struck out seven. He got 6 groundball outs and no fly outs. He was on top of his game. Until, that is, a line drive came right back toward his face. He raised his hand up to protect his face, and broke his ulna bone. He is likely to be out at least the next four weeks. Obviously we wish him the best and a speedy recovery!
Spencer Steedley came in and gave up a run on two hits in 1.1 innings. He struck out two. Tyler Robertson came in and gave up three runs on four hits and a walk in 2.1 innings. Jake Stevens got the final out, but he gave up a run on a hit and a walk.
Sidenote – in the comments section yesterday, someone asked why Tyler Robertson would pitch a third inning, and not just one inning at a time. It is a fair question and a very good question. I would say this. In the minor leagues, players are prepared for the big leagues. Tyler Robertson is likely not going to be a one-inning, 8th or 9th inning guy in the big leagues. He may be a LOOGY. He may be a long reliever. So although he has recorded a couple of saves for the Rock Cats already, there is no negative in stretching him out a little bit too. Should they have gone to Jake Stevens sooner? Based on the results of the game, that case could be made. But again, the minor leagues are (and should be) first and foremost, about development.
Steve Singleton remains hot. He had two more hits. Yangervis Solarte hit his 7th double. Joe Benson hit his 8th double.
Tuesday – Miracle 12, Charlotte 10 – It was all about the big inning for the Miracle in this high-scoring affair. The team scored six runs in the fifth inning, and then scored five runs in the 7th inning. Chris Herrmann led the way. He was 2-3 with two walks. James Beresford also had two hits. Anderson Hidalgo drove in two with a double. Brian Dozier added a triple and a walk. Brad Stillings started and gave up six runs on 10 hits and a walk in five innings. Blake Martin gave up one run on a hit and three walks in his inning. Jhon Garcia gave up three runs on six hits in two innings. Dakota Watts pitched a scoreless ninth for his fourth save of the year.
Tuesday – Snappers 6, Burlington 4 – Oswaldo Arcia can flat-out hit! In this game, he went 4-4 with his sixth double and his second and third home runs of the season. He drove in three runs. The Snappers managed just six hits in the game. Danny Ortiz drove his sixth double as well. Manuel Soliman started and gave up three runs on four hits and three walks in 4.2 innings. He struck out seven. Blayne Weller threw 2.1 scoreless innings. Matt Hauser gave up a run on a hit and three walks in 1.2 innings, but Jose Gonzalez came in and struck out the lone batter he faced for his third save.
Feel free to leave your thoughts, questions or comments.