On Saturday night vs the Cleveland Indians, Joe Mauer jammed the heal of his foot on first base trying to run out a ground ball. A day later it was discovered that Mauer's injury although not significant, was still very painful and he was expected to miss the next few games and possibly be listed on a "week to week" basis. This left manager Ron Gardenhire with a decision. Start Drew Butera or call up catching prospect Wilson Ramos. Gardenhire called up Ramos and in the past 2 games Ramos has 7 hits in his first 9 at bats. Ramos is the first ever player since 1942 (Nanny Fernandez) to has 7 hits in his first 2 Major League games. When watching the 22 year old, I have to admit I am very impressed by his talent. He has a very advanced bat, calls a good game behind the plate, has a strong arm, and is a tough kid.
That being said, Ramos' success has lead to the repeat of the spring training argument that Ramos should remain with the team when Mauer is back and healthy to be the back up catcher and send Butera, not back to AAA but to AA. I am going to pull a quote from the "The Lost World, Jurassic Park" and reference that taking dinosaurs off this island is the worst idea in the long history of bad ideas. And I am going to be there for when you realize that. And making Wilson Ramos stay up with the Twins in May to to play 1 game a week and get roughly get 16 to 20 at bats a month is just as dumb if not dumber. It is the same ridiculous argument posed in spring training. And the decision was made in spring that Ramos NEEDS NEEDS NEEDS to play everyday. The only way he can do that is if he remains in AAA Rochester. The reason why Ramos has played so well is because he has 67 at bats this season and has caught 16 games. He was not going into a situation cold with little experience, like Butera would have been.
Listen, keeping Ramos up to BACK UP Joe Mauer kills his value. Because no other team in baseball would want to trade an asset of their team for a guy who has played 18 games this season and 54 games last year. In the long term people are just going to have to accept the fact that Wilson Ramos will most likley not be with the Twins organization longer then this year. He is a very coveted player around the Major Leagues and I am sure that their is one team out their who would be willing to give a nice return for Ramos.
Idea number 2 that is also dumb is keeping Ramos in Minnesota long term and try and convert Joe Mauer into a third baseman. Just let that idea really roll around in your head before actually made an assessment on it. This is what a normal persons logic would be. You want to take the BEST catcher in all of baseball, a guy who just won the MVP, 2 gold gloves (as a catcher) and 3 batting titles all from that position and convert him into a third baseman, a position he has not played maybe since high school where he only did it on the days he would not catch, just so you can prolong his career? Really? That is the idea? DUUUUMMMBBBBB!!!! The reason why the Twins gave Mauer all that money is because he is the best at what he does. If you try and introduce him to something he really has never done before on the basis that he is a good athlete and he can do anything, you basically make the worst business decision and baseball decision ever. Just think about what guys like ESPN, Baseball Prospectus, and MLB Network would say. They would crucify the Twins for being so blinded and retarded.
Just think about some of the better hitting catchers of recent time. Those being Jorge Posada and Jason Varitek. Both of them were able to catch 130+ games a year up to their age 34, 35 and even 36 season. Mauer is better then these guys. If you remember Mauer is under contract until his age 36 season. In that span of 9 years Mauer will be under contract I am sure he will have 4 or more backups. But Mauer will remain. Because he is Mauer.
Idea number 3 is not a retarded as the first 2 but is still a stretch in my mind. Is basically goes like this. The Twins have Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel under team control for the next 2 years. That is the rest of this year 2010 and all of next year in 2011. The idea is to Keep Ramos up with the big team as a back up catcher for this year and next year (waste of talent and time) and then let one or both of these guys walk in free agency after 2011. After that Joe Mauer and Wilson Ramos will form a catcher/DH platoon where Mauer will catch 100 games a year and Ramos will catch 60 and the one who does not catch will DH on that day. It does not sound like such a bad idea but their are some problems. Problem one. You are still wasting 2 years of Ramos' career by making him be a back up for the rest of 2010 and all of 2011. Ramos will not be an everyday player in the Majors until he is 25 years old when he is ready to play everyday now at age 22. Your team will have to have faith that Ramos will be ready to take over for Kubel or Cuddyer, 2 guys who have been arguably some of the better power hitters and run producers in the game. The contingency plan to this plan is to trade Cuddyer or Kubel after the 2010 season and put the catching platoon plan into effect in 2011. This is basically saying your are confident that Ramos can step in and be just as productive as a guy who hit 32 homeruns (Cuddyer) or a guy who drove in 102 RBI while hitting .300 (Kubel). If you truly think Ramos can be that productive fine, but I am not ready to make that conclusion.
If you put this idea into place your are basically saying we are not keeping Kubel or Cuddyer after the 2011 season anyway. Remember the Twins are a very bad defensive outfield. If you trade Cuddyer you are making your defense even worse letting Kubel play right field everyday. Neither cover much ground but Kubel covers less. And Cuddyer has a much better arm. And in theory after 2011, top prospect Aaron Hicks should be close to ready to be called up which would place him in center field and move Denard Span to left field and Delmon Young to right field. If this is the real plan this is the Twins lineup in 2012 compared to now
Denard Span CF
Orlando Hudson 2B
Joe Mauer C
Justin Morneau 1B
Michael Cuddyer RF
Jason Kubel DH
Delmon Young LF
JJ Hardy SS
Nick Punto 3B
Denard Span LF
Aaron Hicks CF
Joe Mauer C
Justin Morenau 1B
Wilson Ramos DH
Delmon Young RF
JJ Hardy SS
Danny Valencia 3B
Luke Hughes 2B
If you can see this is now a very right handed heavy hitting lineup. Only lefties coming from the 1 through 4 hitters (Hicks being a switch hitter). You take away that balance that makes this years lineup so good. Also their are some major question marks with 2012. Like with Cuddyer and Kubel gone, can Ramos, Young and Valencia make up for that loss? It just seems like a high risk and a lot of maneuvering to do when this teams best opportunities are to win the whole thing might be in this 3 year window. The team should be more invested into winning this year then finding a place for Ramos.
This is my crazy idea. And it can go one of two ways. The first way is this. You send Ramos back down to AAA when Mauer is back and healthy. Let Ramos keep playing everyday, getting his at bats and being on call if Mauer is hurt again. On August 15 when their is a month and a half left in the season you call Ramos up to be Mauer's backup for the stretch run at the playoffs. Ramos will get a good amount of playing time in about 3 months of AAA so he is not cold when he is called up. When rosters expand to 40 on September 1st you say Ramos will be your backup catcher for when rosters shrink back down to 25 for the playoffs. Then you go into the playoffs with 2 guys who have had full seasons and will make your playoff roster that much more dangerous.
Crazy idea number 2. I am going to put Wilson Ramos's chances of remaining with the Twins long term at about 25%. Which means he will in fact be traded. The team that the Twins put together for this season is the best team they have had is years, maybe even decades. Their is a team out in Seattle that invested a lot into contending this year and are not. They have a former Cy Young pitcher by the name of Cliff Lee who is in the final year of his contract. Cliff Lee has said he will explore free agency after the season. Seattle might be looking to move him mid year if they are not winning. The Twins could swap Wilson Ramos straight for a Cliff Lee rental and go the final couple months with 2 left handed aces in Lee and Fransisco Liriano, forming a dynamic duo for the playoffs that will be hard to compete with. The odds of resigning Cliff Lee are in fact low, so he will probably walk in free agency. HOWEVER!, Minnesota will offer Lee arbitration and when Lee walks in free agency the Twins will collect a first round draft pick which in the long run will be of equal value to what Wilson Ramos was anyway. So to be honest how much do you really lose?
All in all I am very impressed what Ramos is doing for the club with Mauer down. But the fact of the matter is this team has Joe Mauer and there is no place for Wilson Ramos. Which means something will need to be done within the next few months. The Twins should not sit on Ramos the same way the Rangers did their trio of young catches. They missed out on trades when their values where at their highest and now they are stuck with all three. Ramos' value is sky high now and they should be listening to offers soon.