The Matt Capps Trade: Twins Perspective

Word from CBS Sports’s Scott Miller is that Matt Capps will be heading from Washinton to Minnesota. Going to the nation’s capital from Minnesota’s capital will be AAA catching prospect Wilson Ramos.

Matt Capps has had a solid season, including an All-Star appearance, coming off of a questionable non-tender from the Pittsburgh Pirates. He’s not quite as good as his 2.80 ERA or 25 saves would suggest, but all of his peripherals suggest that he is an above average reliever. He misses about as many bats (9.4% swinging strike rate) as the average reliever but has good control, walking fewer than two batters per 9 inning both this year and for his career. Capps has also increased his ground ball rate about 7% so far this season, and as ground ball rate stabilizes relatively quickly, that is a great sign going forward. ZiPS projects a 3.69 FIP going forward, which is good for roughly 0.3-0.4 WAR for the rest of the season.

The Twins already carry Jesse Crain, Jon Rauch, Pat Neshek, Matt Guerrier, and Ron Mahay, who all have FIPs below 4.00. However, only Mahay has an xFIP below 4.00, suggesting that their FIPs are either aided by HR luck or the effects of Target Field, which aren’t known exactly yet. Capps likely becomes the best reliever on the team, and should enter the closer’s role immediately. Capps won’t be a huge upgrade over Rauch, but due to the effects of bullpen chaining, the addition of Capps helps the entire bullpen.

It does seem pretty disappointing, however, that Capps is the return for Ramos after he was rumored to be half of a trade for Cliff Lee. Ramos, 22, is struggling at AAA but had a very solid 21 year old season in AA, hitting .330/.352/.447. That kind of bat could play well at catcher, and his skills will be covered in greater depth in the other side of this trade analysis.

This one’s pretty simple for the Twins. They upgrade the front end of their bullpen, but at the expense of a promising talent at catcher. Just as far as the short term goes, the Twins obviously come out ahead, as Capps is a solid reliever and immediately becomes the best on the team. He’s not a great reliever, though, and the effect probably won’t be as high as his low ERA would suggest. I just wonder if the return for Ramos could have been more.




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72 Responses to “The Matt Capps Trade: Twins Perspective”

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  1. SF 55 for life says:

    i think they overpaid way too much on this trade. The Nationals have suddenly found themselves in a good spot for the future.

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  2. Will says:

    If Dayton Moore made a trade this bad the internet would melt.

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  3. Teej says:

    I’m a Capps fan, but Ramos is too much. Nice move by the Nats.

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  4. PatsNats28 says:

    Hell yes! Great trade by Rizzo! To get Testa out of it as well, this is awesome.

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  5. Htpp says:

    I love this trade. So much. Mike Rizzo gets a free pass for the rest of the year, at least from this guy.

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  6. Neil says:

    Great move for the Nats, who have no catching depth in front of Derek Norris in A+ ball. Norris’ bat has always been in front of his defense; maybe this will allow him to move to 1B/LF and get him to the majors sooner.

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  7. Forlorn Twins Fan says:

    As a Twins fan, this is severely disappointing. Capps isn’t great, and they have a bunch of solid-to-good relievers already. This is clearly not enough for Ramos.

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  8. Lintyfresh says:

    The Nats just got more for Matt Capps than the D-Backs got for Dan Haren.

    Good job Rizzo!!!

    Good luck Mad Capper, you were awesome for the Nats!

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    • Will says:

      well Haren’s stuff was just so impertinently “lifeless” or “flat” or whatever the real baseball men were saying

      a strikeout an inning be damned

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  9. Mark says:

    Rizzo is either a really bad or a really good GM. It seems to change every few months for me… today he’s good. Is this the same guy who traded a 5-tool OF and live arm to the similarly-rebuilding Pirates for a 5th OF disguised as a leadoff “igniter” and a generic bullpen guy? And then said goodbye to Elijah Dukes to make room for the Willie Harris Era in right field?

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    • Patrick says:

      those moves seemed more like “change the atmosphere” moves than your typical baseball trades.

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    • longgandhi says:

      If you’ll notice, no one picked up Dukes. He had physical problems that no one talked about in the media and was due an arbitration raise this winter. This wasn’t as much about getting Harris more time – they had Bernadina in mind anyway – as it was letting a player go who had no future with the club.

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    • Souldrummer says:

      Thrilledge is 5-tool OF? Is there great defense and power that I’m not familiar with? Likewise, Hanrahan was a mental case after melting down in the closer’s roll. In the long term, I think the Pirates will win that deal. Burnett’s kind of like a servicable back end guy and I think Hanrahan will be a shut down 8th inning guy. Likewise, Nyjer Morgan seems to determined to bring many of Juan Pierre’s worst attributes to the table. At the time of the trade, the CF defense in DC was ghastly and Milledge was rumored to be a clubhouse problem. They’d kept him longer than expected at AAA because of his performance issues. The trade stabilized the bullpen and the outfield defense in the short term for the team to get some self-esteem back. Nyjer’s been a disappointment this year and Burnett’s just okay, but I don’t have regrets about the deal as stopping the bleeding before they got even worse.

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    • BigFarter says:

      Mark,

      What the hell are you talking about? Milledge is an awful player and nyjer morgan tore it up the second half of last year. While Morgan has had a crap year..hes certainly been better than Milledge because at least he is still a threat for sb’s while Lastings really offers absolutely nothing ..also Burnett has been a serviceable relief pitcher while Hannah ran is a disaster.

      Honestly I can believe you called Lastings Milledge a 5 tool OF. Hes definety a tool but other than his crappy attitude he offers nothing to a team.

      Dude, crack is whack

      Rizzo is awesome, enough said.

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  10. Alex says:

    Poor trade from Smith, but Mauer’s presence surely must be mentioned from the Twins’ perspective.

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    • Jon says:

      I’d say it goes without mentioning :)

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    • joe says:

      Mauer’s presence should be mentioned from the Twins perspective for why they should consider trading him, but that doesn’t mean he has lower trade value and you should accept less… it’s not like this was a salary dump.

      Just like Romine, a glut of future DH’s and no spot at 1B should be mentioned as a reason for the Yankees to consider trading Montero; but that doesn’t mean you trade him for Scott Downs (which apparently the Blue Jays inquired about)

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  11. Will says:

    For all the criticisms of the Twins…. what were they supposed to do? In extending Mauer indefinitely, they threw out any bargaining they had in trading Ramos. At some point they were going to have to trade him, so wasn’t it better to trade him at his age 23 season than at age 24 or 25 or 26?

    He was never going to get substantial playing time with the Twins, and all other 29 teams knew that, so any trade discussions with the Twins were very likely focused on Ramos. Right now, the Twins greatest need is bullpen help. Capps is the best relief pitcher available, so they traded an unavoidably undervalued player for the best player they could acquire. Sure, Matt Capps isn’t Cliff Lee, but he fills the Twins’ greatest need to help them succeed in the playoffs.

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    • Will says:

      Fair point, but they also didn’t have to take just any offer. It’s not like they had to move Ramos by this deadline.

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      • Will says:

        Am I having a conversation with myself? haha

        You’re right, they didn’t. But the longer they waited the more Ramos’ value would depreciate. He’s not getting any younger.

        Additionally, the Twins are in a precarious position. They’re a game out of first in the Central, and the addition of a relief pitcher like Capps could be that extra boost to push them over top the White Sox.

        It appears as if Smith believes the Twins’ bullpen is their weak spot. Is it worth holding onto Ramos, who has no future with the Twins, hoping for the potential to receive a better return on him in the offseason? Shouldn’t they be doing their best to win now? Especially when a trade, such as this one, has no negligible effect on their future?

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      • Forlorn Twins Fan says:

        Yes, but having Mauer shouldn’t affect what they get in return. Unless every team who is interested in Ramos (which I imagine to be more than just the Nationals) gets together and says, hey this guy has no future in Minnesota so none of us should offer much, the teams will still be bidding against each other. And even in that case, every team will have an incentive to cheat the deal, since they can offer a little more than agreed and still be offering something less than Ramos’ true value. Simple game theory.

        And you’re right. He’s not getting any younger, but he’s still just 23. No reason to trade him for 50 cents on the dollar now. As for wanting to win now, that’s always the tradeoff. But is half a win this year (about the best you can expect from Capps for the rest of the season) really worth a catcher ranked the #58 prospect by Baseball America this Spring who’s very close to the big leagues?

        And the trade does have a negligible effect on their future, in terms of its opportunity cost. Instead of getting a better player for Ramos, they got Capps.

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      • Forlorn Twins Fan says:

        sorry, does NOT have a negligible effect on their future.

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  12. Joe Twinsfan says:

    I am not all that impressed. I guess the nice thing is, Matt Guerrier is a Type A free agent at the end of the year and they’ll probably offer him arb and let him go to snag a couple extra draft picks. Assuming this move is a catalyst for that is admittedly kind of a reach, but I’m looking for what I can get right now.

    I also assume the Twins thought of this move as a little Joe Nathan insurance in case TJ recovery doesn’t go as smoothly as they hope…

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  13. Alex says:

    It also seems Pat Neshek has been completely forgotten about…

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  14. Erik says:

    People tend to be, including myself at some point in time, over valuing Ramos. It is pretty clear that most teams did not, and do not view him as a ‘can’t miss’ prospect and a ‘center piece’ to most deals for a guy like Cliff Lee – or else the Twins would have probably gotten Lee when he was dealt from Seattle.

    Capps is an upgrade over Rauch, and gives the Twins another quality arm in their bullpen. I don’t see the point in hating this team.

    The Twins’ leverage for Ramos was about as little as possible with the Mauer extension…and I am sure teams took advantage of that as well.

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    • joe says:

      Well sure… but the opposing Lee deals involved Smoak and Montero… there’s not exactly a lot of minor leaguers who would be a centerpiece to a deal for Lee and compare to those guys (unless Amaro is trading him… I’m kidding Phils fans… well kind of)

      Ramos may not be an elite prospect, but it still seems like a lot for someone who will likely be an 8th inning reliever on most good clubs.

      It’s not about hating the team, it’s about evaluating the trade… it’s also about filling the needs. The Twins have the best bullpen ERA in the AL (please forgive me for using ERA), 3rd in bullpen FIP and are middle of the pack with xFIP…. is this the position that can be best upgraded with one of your bigger trade chips?

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      • TFINY says:

        Uhhh…no. That’s why Bill Smith is a bad GM. Even though he has occassional good moves (all his mid-season moves last year) he often makes very very horrible decisions (this, offering Blackburn a contract, Young-Garza).

        I wish could have gotten a really good defensive outfielder, that could play center well. Then we could move Span to right, and have a decent outfield UZR. I heard Milwaukee has a pretty quick guy.

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      • Dan Greer says:

        I don’t think we can really evaluate Young for Garza / Bartlett just yet. Young is finally looking like he might be reaching his potential as a hitter. You can forget about Bartlett’s ’09 going forward; it was a career year. Garza looks like a fine #2 starter.

        Young may still be the big prize; he’s clobbering the ball at age 24.

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      • RyanD says:

        Don’t forget that he also totally unnecessarily signed Brendan Harris to a two-year contract.

        Smith had a few good moves at the trading deadline last year, but overall it has not been a good tenure.

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    • JCA says:

      I thought the centerpiece of that deal was Hicks.

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  15. Slade says:

    Rauch had lost it. The Twins had to make a move and getting Capps will help.

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    • RyanD says:

      I don’t think you can evaluate Rauch based on the past few weeks. I think anyone here would say it’s silly to do so on such a small sample. He had a bad few weeks; that doesn’t mean he’s suddenly become a worse pitcher.

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  16. Brandon says:

    The Twins are just the latest sucker to pay through the nose for the “proven closer” label. Basically, an enterprising team can stick any middle reliever in the 9th inning and then auction him off within a couple of years to a desperate playoff contender. It’s how George Sherrill brings back Josh Bell and Matt Capps fetches Wilson Ramos.

    It’s like the baseball equivalent of alchemy.

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    • TFINY says:

      And the Twins now have two of the Nationals former closers; we were using Rauch to close out our games. And your point? Perfectly made.

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    • twinsfan says:

      This comment makes me sad, because it’s true.

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    • beat_la_25 says:

      “baseball alchemy” is possibly the best term I’ve ever heard to describe this phenomenon.

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  17. Dan Greer says:

    Neal Huntington has got to be kicking himself for letting Capps go as a non-tender. Doubly now.

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    • Andrew says:

      Don’t you think if he was offered what the Twins just gave up….he would have done it? Capps hasn’t ACTUALLY pitched that well this year, though better than last year – but not even as good as 2008. Just because the Twins overvalue closers in general and overvalued Capps in particular, doesn’t mean that NH screwed up…..it means the Twins screwed up.

      Plus, Capps will head to arbitration and will get a significant raise, without actually pitching that well. Dotel, on the other hand, who has pitched as well as or in most peripherals better than Capps, has a known option next year (very affordable – less than Capps surely) and it doesn’t even HAVE to be picked up. Plus, we don’t know what they will get for Dotel, but, if GMs actually look at Capps/Dotel stats (which obviously the Twins did not), Dotel should bring back something compable, not because he is worth it, but because he will be the beneficiary of stupid closer-evaluations….like the Twins.

      Either we believe in advanced metrics or we do not.

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      • Lintyfresh says:

        I believe you’re misunderstanding what the word “actually” means.

        Your numbers are what they are.

        If you have a 0.00 ERA but a 2 WHIP over 100 innings, you actually put up a great ERA.

        So, yes, Capps “actually” had a solid year, despite whatever you’re trying to say.

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      • Dan Greer says:

        What’s wrong with a 3.53 xFIP? That’s 39th among ML relievers, which is better than he fares in the ERA leader board. I am pretty sure we can assume there are at least 40 relievers having a good year.

        I’m also not sure what metrics you’re looking at to suggest Dotel is having a better year than Capps. About the only one I can see is K/9, which you can keep, as K/BB and GB% are strongly in Capps’ favor.

        Dotel won’t bring back something comparable, because he’s almost certainly not going to close should he be traded.

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      • deckholm says:

        Actually, I think the take away of NH screwing up should always apply…at least until the team reaches .500

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  18. JustinCB says:

    Minneapolis is not the capitol of Minnesota.

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  19. Bryz says:

    Argh, Ramos AND Testa? So much for mimicking last year’s Pavano-for-Pino, Rauch-for-Mulvey, and O. Cabrera-for-Ladendorf mini-steals.

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    • Erik says:

      Testa is a throw in. It is not as if he should make or break this deal.

      He’s a mid 20 year old in A-ball.

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  20. Drew says:

    Wait, I didn’t dream this deal? My only guess on this is that Bill Smith is a hard, hard drinker. I generally make some smart decisions in life, but when the evil whiskey comes a knockin’ I pee in very public places, steal bikes on occasion, skip out on cab fare. That’s the only explanation.

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  21. Mike in MN says:

    If I was Smith’s boss, I might fire him this morning. Nick Blackburn, Brendan Harris, now this? Horrible trade.

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    • Erik says:

      Smith has done some good things for this organization as GM – but as you mention, he has also done some bad things.

      I wouldn’t put this Ramos for Capps trade into the latter category because I think a lot of people are over valuing Ramos as a prospect and future big league player, but the deals for Blackburn and Harris are just awful.

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    • Kerry Foerster says:

      Excellent trade. An unproven injury-prone minor leaguer who will never be needed for a proven closer who throws heat. No loss and all gain.

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    • deckholm says:

      While Smith can be blamed for handing out contracts, it’s Gardy that keeps playing most of these guys.

      You can’t point to 1 bad contract, a contract extension that didn’t seem that bad at the time and a trade that was made 24 hours ago and suggest the GM needs to be fired.

      What about signing Thome? O-Dog? the Pavano trade? the Rauch trade?

      Talk about selective thinking…

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      • RyanD says:

        I’m not sure which of Harris or Blackburn you are considering ‘a contract extension that didn’t seem that bad at the time’. It’s not that he totally overpaid, because there’s no way you could have expected them both to be SO bad this year, it’s that he could have just gone year-to-year with arbitration. The likelihood of them falling apart, as they have, may not have been high, but I think it was clearly higher than them blossoming into stars. That’s why there was little risk for the Twins just to go year-to-year with arbitration rather than signing these unnecessary contracts.

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  22. Mike says:

    Minnesota’s capital is St. Paul… not Minneapolis, where the Twins play.

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  23. scottz says:

    I find it funny that people react so strongly to a trade immediately based solely on the parts traded. In a strict player value to value, yes, I think the Twins overpaid. But there are so many additional factors that have to play into any team’s decision to trade prospects. I’d argue that Ramos’ value does, in fact, go down because everyone knows that Mauer is there long term. I’d also argue that after Lee, Haren, and Oswalt were traded, there wasn’t a starter in the names remaining that the Twins were interested in (or at least not publicly connected to). So the Twins options would be a) potentially overpay for a starter like Lilly who they aren’t interested in, b) potentially overpay for a reliever like Capps who they are interested in, and who they have been interested in since at least last year when I believe he was discussed as part of a Freddy Sanchez trade, or c) do nothing. If they felt like they were missing something, c) is not an option. It makes no sense to trade for something you don’t like, so a) is not an option. So you’re left with b).

    Would they rather have Lee? I’m sure they would. But the rumor was that they floated Ramos and Hicks there (and maybe another player) and that didn’t take. The Twins have a pretty solid track record by not depleting their minor-league system for rental players and that’s what it would have taken to get Lee. This trade, conversely, doesn’t deplete their minor-league system, gives them a player they like at a reasonable price ($3.5MM this year, arbitration-eligible next year), lengthens the bullpen which helps if the starters continue to have weaknesses, and provides some shelter for next year in case Nathan doesn’t bounce back from DL.

    Capps for Ramos and Testa? Win for the Nationals. Capps for Ramos and Testa considering other trades that didn’t happen, who is left on the trade market, the standings, dollars, keeping most of your prospects, Joe Nathan’s elbow, Joe Mauer’s status, and what the White Sox might do? At least understandable for the Twins. And if they end up back in the playoffs, absolute win for the Twins.

    Respectfully,
    scottz

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    • Jason B says:

      Whether they make the playoffs or not isn’t the deciding factor of who “won” this trade, unless they make it with Capps but wouldn’t have made it otherwise. If they finish, say, four games up on the Tigers/ChiSox, then it’s pretty easily shown that they would have been in regardless of Capps’ presence over the last two months.

      Not knocking or defending the trade; plenty of other folks have that covered. Just saying the Twins’ postseason appearance, or lack thereof, isn’t the way to “keep score” on this one.

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      • scottz says:

        I agree that it isn’t “the” way to keep score, but I do think it is “a” way. My assertion here isn’t that there is always a winner and a loser in this (or any) trade, but rather that people react too strongly and largely react that way based on just the players traded, rather than the circumstances and nuances that go into the trade.

        You’re right that Matt Capps’ presence or absence would mean relatively little if the Twins go on a run like September 2009 or something like that. I’m just arguing that there is more nuance and circumstance to any trade than “Ramos for Capps?! Holy *(%#, Bill Smith is an a-hole!” I do think that if the Twins make the playoffs, and if Capps plays any sort of contributing role, then it would be a win for the Twins (and still a win for the Nationals based on the typical player for player view and Ramos’ above average possibilities).

        I thought the author of the original article summarized the trade quite well. I was mainly reacting to comments.

        Thoughts?

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      • Jason B says:

        Good and thoughtful follow-up comments. You’re right, if Capps plays a contributory role in any meaningful way, people (especially Twins fans) will look back on the trade more favorably. Of course, hindsight is always 20/20.

        Too, catching prospects seem to be quite hit-and-miss. People raved about the Rangers’ catching riches with Salty, Teagarden, Max Ramirez, etc. (I think there was one more?)

        They had so many catching riches, in fact, they had to go on an excursion to the local “Flying Molina rental store.” =) Just goes to show that not all the “can’t miss” catching prospects pan out the way they were expected to. (The Wieters experiment, she is still underway…)

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  24. Jonathan says:

    Someone on MLBTR the other day said the Sox should wave the white flag and offer up Beltre for Ramos straight up. I said I could see it as a POTENTIAL possibility, but figured there’s no chance since the Twins could do much better in the offseason by holding onto him.

    Looks like I was way off.

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  25. Joey B says:

    I think people have overrated Ramos, almost like he carred some Mauer’s aura with him, but considering the Nats got Capps for nothing just a short while, getting a good catcher prospect in return is like stealing money.

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  26. monkey says:

    Two things; firstly, Ramos is a bit over hyped by the average fan. Not that he can’t become a really good cathcer, I think he can, but he’s more likely to become a great defense, but average bat kind of guy than anything.Second, there isn’t going to be a place to play him for ten years. Ramos was never ever going to start for the Twins, he was always destined to be traded. From the twins perspective, they might as well get the closer they needed now for him, while they are still in the central race.

    Did they overpay? Probably, but not as much as people think, especially when considering he was blocked, and completely expendable anyway.

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  27. Packman says:

    Twins did not get enough however, let’s face it it was Cliff Lee or bust in the minds of most analysts and Twins fans. Rumor has it that Seattle was not that impressed with Ramos and the Twins approached Seattle early with a very limp offer leaving Seattle with a bad taste in their mouth. Going forward if Nathan returns to form the Twins bullpen will be grade A. Let’s not forget this is all about beating the Yankees. When the Twins defeated them in a playoff game at old Yankee stadium it was because of a bullpen that included Santana and Romero. A bullpen cannot be underestimated in the playoffs which is why you will see the great Yankees fall short this postseason despite all the money and a surreal lineup.

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  28. Visnovsky says:

    Funny, this isn’t even Bill Smith’s 1st or 2nd worst trade. #FIREBILLSMITH

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