When the Minnesota Twins decided to trade talented catching prospect Wilson Ramos to the Washington Nationals for reliever Matt Capps in July of 2010, I immediately found the nearest item I could and threw it at the wall. This wasn’t a reaction of a person with anger management issues; instead, it was a reaction of a baseball fan that knew his favorite team had be hustled.
I would venture to say that I was not alone in my frustration with the trade after watching Ramos fill in admirably for the injured Joe Mauer that spring. With Ramos full of potential and contributing in the lineup, I was anxiously creating future lineups that allowed the Twins to mix and match Ramos and Mauer together in the lineup which would provide one of the best one-two catching rotations in baseball; all of that abruptly ended when Ramos was traded.
During his seven game audition with the Twins in the spring of 2010, Ramos hit .296 with eight hits, zero HR and one RBI over 27 at-bats so it’s understandable how some didn’t see this trade as harmful because the stats hadn’t shown much in terms of Ramos’ value. However, Ramos is a talented catcher who could have been a valuable resource for the Twins to use to protect Mauer’s durability, but also would be a nice designated-hitter option or bat off the bench.
Since leaving, Ramos has had an injury plagued career with the Nationals and has appeared in only 167 games with the team during his career. During that time, Ramos has hit .266 with 21 HR and 72 RBI. Again, those aren’t eye-popping numbers, but they are better than what the Twins got out of Capps in return.
When Capps joined the Twins in 2010, he immediately stepped in as their closer because of the injury to Joe Nathan and ineffectiveness of Jon Rauch. Although Capps wasn’t dominating in his first year with the club, he did save 16 ballgames and had an ERA of 2.00 and a record of 2-0. In the two years he spent with the Twins after that initial season, which saw the Twins lose Nathan in free-agency, Capps struggled as a setup-man and closer when given the opportunity. Capps had a combined 3.97 ERA during his final two seasons with the Twins with a 5-11 record, 29 saves and, an even more discouraging, 12 blown saves. Capps’ contract was not renewed and he became a free-agent after the 2012 season, finally freeing the Twins of his horrendous and declining performances.
So the question I now pose is this: how much better would the Twins be with Ramos? I wouldn’t say the Twins would be title contenders or even division favorites if Ramos had stuck around, but I would say that he would likely add 10 wins or so a season simply because he would keep Mauer fresh for longer stretches of the season. With a healthy Mauer and a contributing Ramos, who I believe could contribute 20 HR and 70 RBI a season, the Twins’ lineup would have more depth and versatility. Would that mean that the Twins would probably have passed on signing Ryan Doumit last off-season? Probably, yes, but the team would be in a better position long-term if Ramos was on the roster.
Finally, even if you think that Ramos wouldn’t have lasted on this team long-term because of the fact that Mauer is on the roster, I do believe that if the Twins hung on to Ramos longer, they could have gotten a better player for him in return. I had a problem with trading Ramos in the first place, but not getting, what I believed to be, a quality player in return simply made the situation worse.
It’s easy to look back on the trade in hindsight and pick it apart and with Ramos’ history of health problems, you may say the Twins got enough value in return for him. However, seeing as though the Twins are poised to be more competitive in a year or two with the next wave of talent, it sure would be nice to have Ramos waiting in the wings as a solid backup catcher and catcher for the future for the Twins. Instead, the Twins are left searching for the heir-apparent to Mauer when they had one all along.