The Good and Bad of the Matt Capps Deal for the Minnesota Twins

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Matt Capps

Roy Oswalt is changing uniforms and his presence instantly makes his new team a World Series contender.

Those words would’ve been music to the ears of Minnesota had the Twins been the team in question.

Instead, the team we’re referring to is the Philadelphia Phillies, who gave up two prospects plus their young pitching stud J.A. Happ for the services of Oswalt for at least the next season and a half, and possibly the 2012 season should the two sides agree to pick up Oswalt’s $16 million option for that year.

The Minnesota Twins, although never considered serious contenders for Oswalt, perhaps made the move they did Thursday partially based on Oswalt’s relocation.

With all the aces off the market, Minnesota traded their #2 prospect, AAA catcher Wilson Ramos, and AA pitcher Joe Testa to the Washington Nationals for their All-Star closer Matt Capps.

The snap judgment out of this deal from the Twins perspective is to say they didn’t address their key need of starting pitching and that they already have a closer in Jon Rauch, who is tied for 6th in saves in the AL with 21.

But look closer at this deal and you’ll find more than one side to the story.

THE GOOD: Yes, the Twins already have a closer in place, that being Rauch, but he has struggled of late.  In July, Rauch’s ERA is 5.4, and he has blown one of the five save chances he has had.

Jon Rauch

The addition of Capps gives the Twins insurance should Rauch start to blow more saves which is not out of the realm of possibility considering Rauch’s lack of out pitch.  It is also not out of the question that Capps may be plugged right into the closer role with Rauch moving to the setup spot.

Capps brings plenty of experience in the closer position to the Twins bullpen which Rauch lacks, which will undoubtedly help Twins fans and Ron Gardenhire sleep a little easier at night.

Capps 26 saves this year is 4th in the NL, and he has 92 saves over his 3+ years as a closer.  While he may not be closing right away, it is quite clear that he will be ready when and if he is called upon to fill that role.

Wilson Ramos, the main piece the Twins sent to the Nationals in this deal, was highly regarded coming into this year, but has had a down season.

After coming up to the majors and going 7-9 in his first two games, things have gone downhill for Ramos.

He was sent to the minors after a 1-18 slump, and has only hit .241 at AAA Rochester this season.

Even more importantly, Ramos, although being the #2 prospect in the organization, was fourth in the pecking order of catchers for the Twins.

Wilson Ramos

Joe Mauer, who obviously isn’t going anywhere, Drew Butera, and Jose Morales are all with the big league club at the moment, and Ramos had no room for advancement with the Twins.

The last time Minnesota had a top prospect blocked by a major leaguer, it was first baseman Garrett Jones, who was stuck behind Justin Morneau and never got a fair shake with the Twins at the major league level.

You may recognize Garrett Jones as the hard hitting right fielder/first baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and yes, the Twins let him go for nothing.

With all the top line starters off the market and a top prospect sitting in AAA, the Twins figured they needed value at a position in question, and got it with one of the better closers in the league.

Looking at the fact that the Twins may have actually learned from their mistakes when it comes to sitting on prospects is encouraging, and the fact that they moved Ramos for a productive player has to be considered a plus.

THE BAD: With one day left before the trade deadline comes and goes, this looks to be the Twins big move.

Matt Capps is a very solid closer, but the Minnesota Twins have bigger issues than the closer spot.

Carl Pavano and Francisco Liriano have been a good one-two in the Twins rotation, but if the Twins are to get where they want to be, Pavano and Liriano are at best a two-three with a number one inserted ahead of them.

francisco liriano

With this move and the Roy Oswalt trade, Minnesota will have to go forward with a top three of Pavano-Liriano-Duensing, which is only slightly better than the three that got swept out of the playoffs last year, Duensing-Blackburn-Pavano.

If this is the big move the Twins make, choosing to solidify a spot that already has a serviceable alternative as opposed to shoring up an area the team has struggled in the entire year, should the Twins get swept out of the playoffs again, if they even make it, we’ll know why.

As for what they gave up, it has to be considered a concession and last ditch effort to make something happen.

Ramos was the Twins big bargaining chip heading into this year and not more than three weeks after offering the Mariners Kevin Slowey and Ramos for Cliff Lee, they end up only getting Capps for Ramos.
Although Ramos was having a down year, you’d like to think that your #2 overall prospect would be able to get you more than a closer that is arguably no better than what you already have.

Granted, Capps has the power and stuff of a closer, something Rauch does not possess, but with only five more saves than Rauch and a 2009 in which his ERA was 5.8 for the Pirates, you have to wonder how stable Capps is, especially considering his career has been spent in the NL with perennial bottom feeders that have never been in a pennant chase.  How will Capps react to the first real pressure of his career?

You have to seriously question giving up your second best prospect for a marginal at best upgrade at the position in question.

If this is your signature move at the trade deadline when your starters ERA is 22nd in the majors and you have exhausted your options within the organization to fill those starting spots, you should have nowhere to look but in the mirror when you’re on the outside looking in at another World Series.

-Mike Gallagher

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