July 30, 2010

Might as well have been for bottle Capps

The Minnesota Twins made a surprising move last night when they traded away blue chip catching prospect Wilson Ramos and left-handed reliever Joe Testa to the Washington Nationals for closer Matt Capps and $500,000 in cash.

Ramos, who ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the Twins system before the season, has been less than impressive in his first season of Triple-A. Testa was ranked as the No. 49 prospect heading into the season and is back in Single-A Fort Myers after struggling in Double-A New Britain. His inclusion into the trade doesn't bother me. He is a 24-year-old with control problems who is still three stops away from the Major Leagues. Capps, on the other hand, turned a bad situation into a good one when he was released by the Pirates last winter. He signed with the Nationals and was selected to this month's All-Star game (thanks in large part to the every team must have a representative rule).

Heading into the season, Ramos was considered a can't-miss prospect who was coming off of a Venezuelan Winter League where he hit .332/.397/.582 with 12 home runs in 54 games. He was one of the last cuts Ron Gardenhire made in Spring Training, and after hitting .400/.400/.733 with two home runs over 30 at-bats, it seemed Ramos' time in Triple-A may be short-lived.

He was summoned from the minor leagues in early May and spent a week with the club, while Joe Mauer nursed a bruised heel. Ramos came out swinging and went 6-9 with three doubles in his first two games before finishing up his time in Minnesota going 1-18. From that point on, nagging injuries, attitude problems and a .241/.280/.345 slash line proved to be enough for the Twins to rid themselves of one of their best prospects.

This is what I wrote about Ramos at the beginning of the season:
Wilson Ramos was signed as a non-drafted free agent on July 7, 2004. He didn't make it to the states until 2006, but he certainly has made his presence felt since. Admittedly, I flirted with ranking Ramos as the top overall prospect.

In 2006, Ramos began the season in Extended Spring Training before joining the Gulf Coast League. With the Twins, Ramos hit .286/.339/.435 with 16 extra-base hits in 154 at-bats. In 2007, Ramos again found himself in Extended Spring Training but he eventually joined the Beloit Snappers in June with the struggles of Greg Yersich. He went on to hit .291/.345/.438 with 26 extra-base hits in 292 at-bats. After the season, Ramos ranked in as my 13th best prospect in the Twins system. In 2008, Ramos moved up to the Florida State League where he hit .288/.346/.434 with 38 extra-base hits with the Ft. Myers Miracle. In 2009, Ramos continued to move through the system, this time playing for the New Britain Rock Cats in the Eastern League. He broke his finger in May and after returning in June, he missed two months with a pulled hamstring. All together, Ramos hit .317/.339/.496 with 25 extra-base hits including seven home runs in 224 at-bats. After finding himself healthy, Ramos hit .332/.397/.582 and drove in 49 runs in the Venezuelan Winter League.

Ramos' offensive prowess is mostly what he is known for, but Ramos is also a stout defender behind the plate. Pitchers like the way he calls the game and his strong arm makes it hard for base runners to steal on him. But two things stand in the way for Ramos are his history of injuries and a guy by the name of Joe Mauer. Ramos has the potential to be one of the best offensive catchers in baseball, but THE best is already on the roster, so it doesn't seem likely that he'll play an extensive role with the Twins (at least not as a catcher). The Twins could consider using using him at DH, but that seems like it'd really be diminishing his value. Ramos needs to prove in 2010 that he can stay on the field, which may be all that is separating him from being the top prospect.

Despite being blocked by Mauer at catcher, Ramos' value was not diminished. Many believed that with Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer's time in Minnesota possibly coming to an end after 2011, Ramos could have been saved to be not only Mauer's back-up, but an everyday DH.

Ramos' offensive potential, defensive prowess and position made him a valuable trading chip; one that Twins fans were really banking on to bring back a hefty return. Before the season, Twins fans moaned and groaned over the thought of the Twins trading Ramos to San Diego for Heath Bell. That's not to take away from Bell's or even Capps' ability, it's just that trading a top prospect for a reliever is a half-baked idea.

If we're talking about Joakim Soria, Jonathan Papelbon, Jonathan Broxton or Andrew Bailey, sure. But we're not. We're talking about a guy that posted a 5.80 ERA and was then cut by the second-to-worst-place-team Pittsburgh Pirates last winter. And the same guy who is will command a hefty price in arbitration this off-season.

Like Aaron Gleeman wrote, the Twins believe they're getting an "All-Star closer" when in-reality, they're just getting someone who isn't significantly better than what they already have.

While I do have a hard time supporting this trade, I do get what the supporters are saying.

Rauch has been questionable as of late and is very inconsistent. If the Twins want to make a run into the post season, they need to make sure their bullpen is lights out. While this trade doesn't give us that, it does make the bullpen (as a whole) a helluva lot better than it was before.

While we all cringe at Ramos being the traded player, Capps could provide us with a lot of value in 2011. With Nathan coming back from Tommy John surgery, there's no telling if or when he'll be able to be relied upon to close out ballgames. He could have a setback or he may never be right again. For that, the Twins prepared themselves by acquiring a guy they obviously feel comfortable going into next season as their closer if needed.

To recap, here are the pro's that I've found for the trade:
  • The Twins added to their bullpen depth by acquiring a good, capable reliever. Albeit, he's not a shutdown closer like we need.
  • They also prepared themselves for any complications they may have with Joe Nathan as he works his way back from Tommy John surgery.
For the con's, I have to put you in the direction of John Bonnes' post entitled "8 Things I HATE About the Capps-Ramos Trade." John touches on eight different things that I believe all could give Twins fans a reason to feel discouraged.

So what now?

I originally had a post ready (can you believe it) that was going to give my thoughts on the next few days. Basically, I felt that the Twins were probably a lot more likely to go after a reliever now, and wait for a starting pitcher until August, when guys like Ted Lilly, Tom Gorzelany and Brett Meyers (among others), will undoubtedly be passed through waivers. That is of course if the Twins still need a starting pitcher.

At this point, I think the Twins will still try to acquire a starting pitcher, but I don't believe they'll actually act on anything until August (if at all).

I will share one snippet from the post, which now I find to be both amusing and completely sad:
If the Twins are serious about going after Scott Downs or any other reliever, they'd be fools to overspend and use someone like Ben Revere, Angel Morales or Wilson Ramos as bait. Trading a top flight prospect for a reliever, who isn't a shutdown closer, is more of a cardinal sin than walking a pitcher is. You just don't do it.

Meh. What do I know?

My final thoughts: Is taking a baby step back from the ledge still considered "talking somebody off of it?"


Anonymous said...

It's pretty obvious Ramos isn't nearly as coveted by professional baseball talent evaluators as were fans/bloggers. We've seen him take less than 50ab/s.. They've seen him take hundereds. There was something people didn't like, probably more than the injuries.

lt. col. fletcher t. prouty, ret

xiamenb2c02 said...

Top quality of ecco shoes are developed for discerning customers.Enjoy a great selection of newest style.discount ecco shoes on sale,free shipping,110% price guarantee.Top quality of ecco shoes is your best chooice for daily life and working,sport,and so on.And hot sale now winter Boots .fashion on the outside,warm on the inside.

Anonymous said...

Is the blog done??

Josh Johnson said...

Sit tight! It's been a while, but I'm not done.

Anonymous said...

We love following your stuff. Thanks for all the great content We look forward to you coming back. We wanted to introduce you to our new site TC Huddle: http://www.tchuddle.com/?p=132.

Keep up the good work! We’ll be sure to keep following.

acrylic plaques said...

Lets just hope & pray that the twins made the right decision with this one.