During a year in which pitchers are being sold for remarkably low prices, the Minnesota Twins announced last night that they had traded Wilson Ramos to the Washington Nationals for closer Matt Capps. On the face of things, it seems a very high price to pay for a closer.
Ramos, 22, was one of the most-blocked prospects in baseball. Being a catcher in Minnesota's organization doesn't exactly qualify you for much playing time, and Ramos was a virtual lock to be traded eventually.
That he was only able to bring Matt Capps as a return, though, is disappointing. Many thought Ramos was worth much more than an expensive relief pitcher, but a lot of that can probably be attributed to a fan base overvaluing a prospect's worth.
The fact is, Ramos hasn't helped the Twins out much this year. By hitting a paltry .241/.280/.345 in Triple-A Rochester this season, Ramos' value has either dropped significantly, or Minnesota's front office panicked and sold Ramos for less than he was worth.
Capps is owed around $1.3 million for the rest of this season, and is set for another raise for the 2011 campaign. With Joe Nathan expected to attempt a comeback next year, though, Capps may not even be tendered a contract. If Nathan can make a full recovery, Capps would be a very expensive set-up man, to say the least.
While it would be nice to have a Capps-Nathan combo in the 2011 bullpen, the duo would combine to make entirely too much money for the impact they could make on the team as a whole. But while it wouldn't be cost-effective to keep both a functional Nathan and Capps next year, the 26-year old reliever from Washington will be available should Nathan not recover from Tommy John surgery.
Expensive though he is, Capps makes the Twins a better team than they were yesterday. Being inserted directly into the ninth inning role, Capps will force the entire bullpen chain down a notch, which should help other Minnesota relievers improve, or, in some cases, take high-leverage innings away from relievers who have no business pitching in them.
Capps has induced quite a few ground balls this year, and has seen a healthy drop in his fly ball rate. The transition from Nationals Park to Target Field will be negligible, so the Twins are hoping Capps can keep batted balls on the ground. Minnesota's infield is much more prepared to handle an increased work-load than the outfield.*
* Minnesota's currently outfield deserves a post of its own. The primary culprit for Baker, Slowey, and Blackburn's poor seasons this year, the outfield could use an infusion of range. As Beth Sickella opined last night on Twitter, the Twins should consider giving Cuddyer a few games at third (once Morneau is healthy again, of course) during starts from Slowey and Baker. This will hurt the infield defense, but allow both Repko and Span to play in the outfield. An interesting idea, to say the least.
By bringing in Capps, the Twins will increase their final win total of the regular season by a fraction of a win, at best. Still, in the very tight American League Central, a division that has required a couple Game 163's, even a fraction of a win could make a huge difference.