GameChat – Mariners @ Twins, 7:10

Wow…  SOOOOOOO much news since the last game.  It’s kind of silly how much stuff can happen over an off-day in the baseball season!

A)  The biggest news is, of course, that the Twins have acquired a new closer from the Washington Nationals, Matt Capps, and some cash in trade for Wilson Ramos and Joe Testa.  We’ve covered that in a previous post today and just about everyone else has too.

B)  Today, the Twins announced that Nick Punto is going on the DL afterall and they’ve brought up Trevor Plouffe.  Does anyone else think that we have kind of a revolving door with Rochester right now?  I think if Rochester actually had a better record this year, I would feel really bad for the instability – and then I wonder if the instability might contribute to their record.  Poor Rochester.  Blackburn has also been sent down to AAA to get more regular starts to work on his pitching.

C)  Justin Morneau has begun doing light baseball activities – and it still feeling symptoms within a couple hours.  He is recovering, he says, but it’s obviously a lot slower than he wants it to be.  But that slowness means that he’s most definitely not going to play against Seattle.  Any thoughts of the next roadtrip are most definitely premature.

D)  in former Twins news, Guzman has been traded to the Rangers – sounds like he was really sad to be leaving.

I have to run out the door so I can’t wait for MLB to post the linkable lineups tonight so you’ll have to deal with the newspaper ones.  Hopefully I’ll be back before too much of the game has gone! 

MARINERS (39-64)

1. Ichiro Suzuki, RF
2. Chone Figgins, 2B
3. Casey Kotchman, 1B
4. Russell Branyan, DH
5. Franklin Gutierrez, CF
6. Michael Saunders, LF
7. Josh Bard, C
8. Josh Wilson, 3B
9. Jack Wilson, SS

Starting pitcher: RH Doug Fister (3-6, 3.56 ERA)

TWINS (56-46)

1. Denard Span, CF
2. Alexi Casilla, 2B
3. Joe Mauer, C
4. Delmon Young, LF
5. Jason Kubel, RF
6. Michael Cuddyer, 1B
7. Jim Thome, DH
8. Danny Valencia, 3B
9. J.J. Hardy, SS

Starting pitcher: RH Scott Baker (8-9, 5.00 ERA)

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Seattle 0 0 0 0 0 3 0 0 0 3 9 2
Minnesota 0 2 1 0 2 0 0 0 x 5 8 0


Welcome to Minnesota, Mr. Capps!!  Nothing like really showing up to work on your first day on the job!   It was fun to see the fan reaction and then to hear the newest Twin’s reaction to his welcome in the postgame.  He seems legitimately impressed with the park and the environment he’s now in.  I hope things continue to settle in for him but it was a great start.

But Capps getting the Save means the Twins got the WIN and that’s ALWAYS good news.  We pulled out the offense again, including Thome getting a 2 run HR.  Interestingly enough, there was another 2 run HR and from probably the last person on the roster that you would expect it from – Alexi Casilla!!  That was definitely an entertaining moment for tonight.  Good for you Lexi!  For that unexpected bomb, you were chosen BOD.  Pastries (or ice cream cake) go to Thome and Capps for rounding out the fun experience!

Let’s Not Rush to Judge “the Trade”

Matt Capps

As I went to bed last night, I still wasn’t sure how I felt about the Twins trade of premier catching prospect Wilson Ramos along with minor league pitcher Joe Testa to the Nationals for closer Matt Capps and half a million dollars cash. This morning, I’m still not sure how I feel about it.

I admit I haven’t had time yet to read many of the reactions from the rest of the Twins blogosphere, but I do feel most of this community tends to overvalue the Twins’ prospects, so I’m guessing the reaction in the blogs will be largely negative. TwinsGeek John Bonnes found eight things he didn’t like about the trade, while over in Section 219, Howard Sinker seemed to offer a conditional thumbs up to the deal.

I’m not a terribly patient person, by nature, but I’m going to suggest we all try to exercise some patience here. There’s no doubt in my mind that this trade makes this year’s Twins better. How much better? That’s certainly a fair topic for debate. Capps is probably a moderately better closer than Jon Rauch, but that’s only part of the story. Adding a reliever at the top of the bullpen food chain has a ripple effect which means (or should mean, anyway) that the Twins would actually be replacing their LAST arm in the pen with Capps.

Who you feel that person is depends on how you personally feel about Ron Mahay, Jose Mijares and Nick Blackburn. Mahay and Mijares are lefties and with Brian Duensing in the rotation, it seems unlikely they’ll be sent packing. There’s also an argument to be made that Blackie, if he’s ever going to regain his effectiveness, needs to pitch regularly in Rochester rather than waiting around for a long relief spot in Minnesota. But if he leaves, who exactly IS the Twins long reliever who can go 3+ innings if the starting pitcher struggles early? [EDIT: I realized I should have also included Anthony Slama on the list of guys that could be bumped to make room for Capps. Sitting here thinking about it, unless they decide Blackburn needs regular starts, he’s probably the guy on his way out for now.-JC]

Then there’s that $500,000 that the Twins are getting back from the Nationals. What’s that all about? We can certainly all speculate about just how close the Twins are to being maxed out on their payroll for the year, but it just seems odd that half a mil would have a major bearing on that issue. I mean, that’s a good chunk of change for you and me, but for a Major League Baseball team?

Weighing all of this brings me to only one logical conclusion. Bill Smith isn’t done yet.

I realize MLB Trade Rumors is reporting that the Cubs and Dodgers are talking about a deal to send Ted Lilly to LA and they mention that the Twins (and other teams) have “cooled” on Lilly. But whether it’s Lilly or someone else, I’m betting (or at least hoping) Smith is fairly certain he’s going to land a lefty starting pitcher. It may or may not be before Saturday’s non-waiver deadline, but that’s really a pretty soft deadline these days because of the size of contracts the players involved have. They pass through waivers pretty freely.

If the Twins do pick up a LH starter, it frees them to push Duensing back in to his role as the team’s long reliever AND top lefty out of the pen. That sends either Mahay or Mijares packing (I’m guessing Mijares to Rochester). Of course, the Twins don’t have Ramos around to deal for a top lefty SP any more, but I have to figure the teams they’re talking to about such players weren’t after Ramos (if they were and Smith dealt him for a reliever, then I’m completely baffled at the logic). And maybe that $500K gives the Twins some flexibility in terms of taking on more of the next trade target’s salary and thus not having to part with as much talent in the deal? I dunno. Just spitballing here.

So I’m holding off on passing judgment… for now. If it turns out this is it… and the Twins spent arguably their top trade chip for a relief pitcher, then that’s going to be tough for me to swallow. I was all for trading Ramos, but it just seems like that’s not a fair return, given Capps’ contract situation (he’s going to start getting very expensive the next year or two… probably too expensive for the Twins to keep). But after the series of deals Bill Smith made in August last year that, despite not all being widely popular at the time, turned out very well for the Twins, I’m going to sit back and hope this is all part of a larger plan to strengthen more than one area of the roster and prepare the Twins for a playoff run. – JC