Friday, July 30, 2010

The Matt Capps Trade

I realize of all of the trades that have gone on recent days (Jorge Cantu, Roy Oswalt, Miguel Tejada, Dan Haren, etc.,) the Matt Capps for Wilson Ramos trade is probably one of the least exciting. However, most of the other trades (except for maybe the Dan Haren trade) made sense to me for both teams, and both teams got a pretty fair deal out of it.

I don't think that is the case with this trade. I think that the Nationals clearly got the better deal, which in some ways is nice to see I guess.

Ramos, who was a stud prospect at the end of last year, at the premium position of Catcher, has had an off year. His value has certainly declined, but I don't think that it has declined to the point that a 1-for-1 trade for Matt Capps makes any kind of sense, especially because Matt Capps is not exactly amazing. Last year, he was non-tendered by the Pirates after putting up a 5.80 ERA as their closer. Certainly his ERA was a product of bad luck, since his 7.6 K/9 and low walk rates were pretty good. However, the ERA he has put up this year of 2.74, is on the opposite end of that spectrum and is pretty much the product of good luck. His strike out rate has actually gone DOWN since last year, although his Walk rate has improved.
Basically, my point is that for most teams, Matt Capps is a serviceable 7th or 8th inning guy, and certainly not a closer. He was a closer for the Pirates and the Nationals because the Pirates had no other options, and the Nationals aren't quite ready to thrust Drew Storen or Tyler Clippard into the role -- although I guess they are going to now. The Twins plan to insert Capps into the closer role, although obviously he will only have it for the rest of this year (pending results I'm sure) as Joe Nathan returns next year.

I understand that the Twins needed bullpen help with the recent struggles of John Rauch as closer, but bullpen help usually comes a lot cheaper than someone with as high of a ceiling as Wilson Ramos. Yes, the Twins will have control of Capps for a number of years before he reaches free agency. And yes, Joe Mauer would have been blocking Wilson Ramos for the rest of time, but the Twins could have included Ramos in a much better deal (in fact he was part of their attempted package for Cliff Lee) than for Capps.

Some people, such as Fangraphs' Dave Cameron think that Ramos' struggles this year (.241/.280/.345 at AAA) decrease his value enough for the trade to be fair for both sides. What Dave Cameron, who I usually agree with, fails to mention is the fact that Wilson Ramos is a 22-year-old catcher, who destroyed AA pitching last year and will probably take a little bit of time to adjust to AAA. His numbers against AAA pitching have not been great, but it's not like he's below the Mendoza line or anything. He has plenty of time, Catchers are one of the slowest position players to make it all the way to the majors, and he is still playing above his age level for a Catcher. It's also kind of important to note that Ramos already has a handful of games in the Major Leagues from earlier this season when Mauer had an injury.

Tomorrow is deadline day, and I will probably make a post about my favorite trades of the last few weeks and how I think they will effect contenders.
Have a good weekend everyone!

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