Minnesota Twins Trade for Matt Capps; A Win and a Loss?

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Minnesota Twins acquired Nationals Closer Matt Capps

Quick question: What would you consider more satisfying, a piece of perfectly seasoned but dry beef jerky that takes a long time to chew before you can swallow it or a super sweet piece of gum that is great tasting at first but eventually leaves your palate bland and must be spit out? Think about it, we’ll get to the point of that query later.

The Twins now have a former Washington Nationals closer as their closer for 2010. Well, they did before today too, but they have a new one, or a different one, or… whatever. The Twins traded Wilson Ramos and a minor league pitcher for Matt Capps Thursday night. I wish I could accurately describe my waffling emotions. It’s taken me nearly an hour just to write an opening paragraph. I don’t really love the trade. I initially hated it. I’m pleased the front office is trying, though I wished they would have gotten a little more to show for “trying.”

If you can’t tell, it’s really hard to judge this trade as it’s one that could have dramatic short and long term ramifications.

By Peter Christian

Twins Relief Pitcher Jon Rauch

Since I hate not being optimistic, let’s start with the positives.

First, the trade does indeed make the team better. The bullpen has been downright shaky at times this season and allowing Jon Rauch to move from the closer role into his regular set-up role will bolster the foundation of the relief pitching. Second, Matt Capps is having a terrific season. He was the winning pitcher for the All-Star Game and has the 4th most saves to date in the National League. If he brings that success to the Twins, 9th inning leads should be pretty safe from here on out.

That however, doesn’t mean the trade was all cookies and lollipops for the Twins.

Washington Nationals acquired catcher prospect Wilson Ramos

To bolster the bullpen and get Capps in a Twins uniform the organization had to give up its most revered prospect in Wilson Ramos (and some other dude I’ve never heard of). Ramos is considered a “can’t miss” prospect that even had a stint with in the big leagues earlier this season when Joe Mauer spent some time on the disabled list. With all the hype that has surrounded Ramos, his value in a trade was thought to be a bit higher.

On the other end, Capps, with all of his success this year, makes a modest $3.5 million but he’s eligible for arbitration this offseason and will likely earn a decent raise from the mediators. If the Twins decide to not offer Capps arbitration and allow him to be a free agent, the team, in essence, just gave up their best trading chip for a player that will only pitch about 25 of the team’s remaining 540 innings (I really hope that doesn’t happen by the way).

If I stopped here, you’d think I absolutely despised this trade.

Fortunately, I’m not stopping here because I don’t completely hate the trade.

Minnesota Twins Catcher Joe Mauer

There are other facets to recognize as well. For one, the Twins HAD to trade Ramos. Had to. Once Joe Mauer signed his contract extension to become the president of Minnesota and get paid a gajillion dollars (slight liberties were taken with the previous statement), every other team in baseball knew that Ramos was an available asset. That availability put a small dent in Ramos’ full value. Then there’s the fact that Twins’ GM Bill Smith went against previous protocol and made a proactive move rather than a reactive one. The team should get some credit just for making it happen.

However (and this is kind of a big “however” to hide 500 words in), the entire trade does give us all a hint of how the Twins run their team. The trading of Wilson Ramos (again, the Twins best prospect) for a second or third tier closer when the team has more than just one pressing need in order to be a winner in October appears a bit short sighted and lends credence to the fact that division titles are more important than World Series titles.

Minnesota Twins Closer Joe Nathan

That is, unless the Twins are fully aware that Joe Nathan (coming off Tommy John surgery) isn’t going to be the closer we expect him to be in 2011 and that Capps (and not some of the younger prospects) is the back up plan. That plan is one I can get behind. That plan allows Nathan to fully heal for two seasons rather than just one (as the surgery typically dictates, just ask Francisco Liriano and Pat Neshek) and not have to over pay Jon Rauch to stick around.

After the trade news leaked out the initial response among the majority of Twins fans on Twitter was that Ramos should have netted a much bigger prize. Anyone who was familiar with the team knew that Ramos was on the table, but we didn’t know he was available for so cheap or needed to be dealt right now. Maybe the interest in Ramos had waned during his recent struggles at the plate, maybe this was the best offer they had for the catcher or maybe the team just thought that Ramos’ value had already reached it’s peak and wanted to cash in this season. Or just maybe the Twins fans had fallen so in love of having the Ramos chip in the team’s pocket that we were just taken aback that the chip was finally cashed in. As much as it sucks to admit, that final “maybe” was probably closer to the truth. The more I chew on the trade, the more I’m convinced of it.

This trade was like a really well seasoned, dry piece of beef jerky. It took quite a while gnaw on it, but eventually it can be swallowed and considered satisfying. And let’s be honest, beef jerky is always more satisfying than a piece of gum.

Comments

  1. I’m down for the trade, I think Capps will excel with the Twins as his confidence from now being on a competitive team will bolster his confidence. Ultimately it IS a World Series move as with ’87 and ’91 we had Reardon and Aguilera (both of which were not necessarily “ace” closers). But they were good and got the job done.

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