If last night was a glorious victory for Neal Huntington’s bullpen building plan, today’s news that Matt Capps was traded to the Twins for Wilson Ramos is pretty much the opposite of that. Capps, you will of course recall, was unceremoniously dumped by the Pirates with a non-tender back in March to allow them the freedom to go out and add Octavio Dotel, DJ Carrasco, and Brendan Donnelly. Carrasco and Dotel turned out nicely, Donnely didn’t. Ramos is a pretty good 22-year old catching prospect who the Twins obviously don’t need right now with Joe Mauer, which is a much better haul than “zilch.”
It’s tempting to look at this as a “this or that” scenario, where the Pirates could’ve kept Capps and in turn be the ones receiving a player like Ramos in a trade. That was the more or less the mistake that Huntington made. I mean, yes, it’s possible that had Huntington not cut Capps, Capps would be the Pirates’ closer and it would be the Pirates trading him to the Twins for Ramos right now. But there are a few things to consider here. One is that the only reason the Nats can get a prospect of Ramos’s caliber for Capps is because they have Mauer. Perhaps the Pirates wouldn’t be interested in Ramos with Tony Sanchez in the system.
Of course, the Pirates might have kept Capps and signed Dotel anyways, after losing faith in Capps as a closer after his disastrous 2009. Capps would’ve gone into the Donnelly role. That might make him considerably less valuable. Of course, with Capps not on the market maybe Dotel would be that much more valuable in a trade and, well, I could go on forever.
The point, of course, is that Capps did have some value. The Pirates admitted they came into this season under budget, so they conceivably could’ve afforded Dotel, Capps, Carrasco, and not signed Donnelly. Hindsight’s 20/20, of course, and the bullpen that Huntington’s put together without Capps has been more than capable this year, but Capps certainly was an asset that the Pirates let go and that’s obviously something they can’t afford to do very often.