Friday, August 23, 2013

20 Minnesota Twins Trades: Wilson Ramos for a proven closer

Ok, let's all just try to be cool here.

The Trade:  BREAKDOWN!

The Minnesota Twins traded Wilson Ramos, Joe Testa and cash to the Washington Nationals for Matt Capps

I'm not sure Twins fans remember this, but Capps was really good in 2010.  He took over as closer and fired off 27 innings of 2 ERA.  He saved 16 games down the stretch and helped the Twins make the playoffs.  The problem was that he was declining already and the Twins didn't see it.  He was much worse in 2011, seeing a huge drop in his strikeout rate.  The Twins still didn't see it and signed him again for 2012.  He was hurt and awful and hasn't pitched in the Majors since.

Ramos is great when he's healthy.  He has posted a 112 OPS+ with Washington, but he has only played 198 games in just over three seasons.  I'd love to see what he could do in a full season.  He's slugging almost .500 this year and is going to be a breakout candidate until he actually breaks out. 
Testa is playing independent ball now.  The cash was reinvested into the organiz... Ha!  I'm sorry, but that's just too funny to pass up. 

How did I feel at the time?

I had mixed feelings.  I actually liked Matt Capps.  I "found" him back before he was a closer.  In 2007, Salomon Torres was the Pirates' closer.  I was a fantasy baseball player.  We weren't a match.  However, I knew Torres sucked, so I stashed this dude named Capps and hoped the Pirates would reach the same conclusion that I had.  They did.  However, I liked Ramos too.  I did feel he was somewhat redundant with Joe Mauer signed forever and awesome.  So, I liked the idea of getting value for Ramos and I liked Capps.  I was wrong.

Why make the trade?

The Twins are a very traditional team.  If there is a traditional role to fill, they will fill it.  As such, the Twins needed a "proven closer" for the 2010 stretch run.  Or at least, that is what this article indicates:

"The motivation is that this makes us a better club," said general manager Bill Smith, whose Twins trail the Chicago White Sox by 1½ games in the AL Central. "This gives us more depth in the back of that bullpen. Matt Capps is an established, veteran closer who is going to give us a better chance to win our division and advance to the World Series."

I can't imagine a world where Matt Capps makes a team a World Series contender.  Jon Rauch had closed for the first half and had done a really nice job.  There was really no need to trade for a closer.  Any right-handed bullpen arm would have made the team stronger.  Unfortunately, a "closer" carries more weight than a "good reliever who doesn't close."  Thus, Ramos was sent away.  Weak. 

"Jon Rauch stepped up and has been phenomenal for us," Smith said. "This gives us three quality, veteran guys late in the game. I can't say enough great things about what Jon Rauch has contributed to this club and we expect him to continue to be a huge contributor to our success."

This quote doesn't make a whole lot of sense.  If Rauch had been phenomenal, then it would stand to reason that trading a prized catching prospect to replace him falls in the "bad idea jeans" category.  This is especially true when you consider...

"He's a tremendous talent and he's got a bright future," Smith said. "Anytime you're going to get an All-Star closer, you have to give up a good player. It was a tough decision, but one we felt we had to make."

I do agree that you have to get to give, but this give was too much for what they wanted to get.

The addition of Ramos to a talented young core led by ace Stephen Strasburg gives the Nationals the flexibility to move slugging catcher Bryce Harper, the No. 1 overall pick in the June draft, into the outfield.

Well now that just seems unfair.


This is another trade that looks terrible on paper but the idea isn't completely insane.  Deal from strength to improve the team.  However, trading a 22-year-old catcher with big upside for one of the least impressive closers in baseball is just not worthwhile.  Ramos is probably going to be providing Washington with value for the next 5-6 seasons.  Even if he does remain injury prone, he'll be good when he can play.  He'd be a perfect player in the Twins' Ryan Doumit role, but alas, it was not meant to be.

This is the danger in worrying about a "proven closer."  The title carries more weight than it should.  If you put a good pitcher in the 9th inning, they will likely still be a good pitcher.  If you take a pretty good pitcher and call them a "closer," they become more valuable than they really are as a player.  Matt Capps isn't a proven closer any more than Jon Rauch, but if you give him enough save opportunities, he becomes one.  I guess that's just how baseball works, but it certainly clouded the Twins' judgment in this case. 

Who won the WAR?

Capps with the Twins:  2.0 WAR
Ramos with the Nationals:  4.2 WAR

WAR won by the Nationals!

One Sentence Summary

Fantasy baseball is a terrible way to learn about players.

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