Friday, July 30, 2010

Dear Twins Front Office...

So you had to go and make a deal, that's understandable, I mean, we were all kinda eagerly waiting to see what you would do, hopeful of maybe landing a Lee or Oswalt type but more realistically expecting a lesser pitcher like Lilly or Carmona. Imagine my surprise when I received a text from 'domedog' last night saying that you had traded away one your most valuable trade pieces AND another minor leaguer for...Matt Capps? I fancy myself a fairly rational guy and I also think I have a decent grasp on some of the more advanced stats. Just so we're clear, number of career saves is NOT, I repeat, not an advanced stat. Given what I've seen here, with you trading Ramos (and Testa) for Capps, you rational must have been something like, "Capps has a lot of saves, and he was an all-star, so he will be able to help the Twins down the stretch."

I guess my question is, you do know that every team is required to have a representative at the all-star game (I mean, even the Royals (i know right?) had a player there) and that being an all-star, especially these days, doesn't mean much right? Another question might be, you do know that 'saves' is one of the most fickle stats in baseball and that they are much more situational than substantive...right? Yet another question would be, "HOW DOES THIS TRADE IMPROVE THE TEAM?" Here's some other opinions on the matter, they're almost universally against it:

Aaron Gleeman - summarized: you paid too much for something that's not that different than what you have
Josh's Thoughts - summarized: WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?
Twins Geek - summarized: general hatred of the trade broken down into 8 parts
Over The Baggy - summarized: Bill Smith is perhaps wise, but doesn't listen to his own good advice
Twins Target - summarized: a positive review of the trade, the only one I could find (didn't check the papers)

So there you have it, 80% unfavorable, 20% favorable, and that's a very brief sampling, by no means exhaustive, but I'm gonna go out on a limb on say that the opinion of the trade among fans is mostly unfavorable.

In the Over The Baggy piece, I was particularly surprised by a quote that came from you Bill, when you said, "There is a fine line between patience and impatience or patience and panic, you don’t want to overreact either way." Really...because this move strikes me as ill-conceived and poorly thought out. Not only that, it wreaks of impatience. Gleeman did a nice job, as he always does, of breaking down the trade from a statistical standpoint and no matter how you look at it, this trade doesn't make sense. Bill, you've done an ok job trying to fill Terry Ryan's shoes and even Ryan didn't always pull the right strings, but I'm fairly confident that he wouldn't have made this deal.

My thoughts on the deal? If it doesn't make the team obviously better, and it costs you what is arguably your most valuable trading piece, then why make the deal? It just seems like a deal that didn't need to be made. My suggestion is to hire Aaron Gleeman or someone with a similar grasp on sabremetrics to help you in avoiding a mistake like this in the future.


  1. I don't know how I feel about this trade, mostly dislike, but I also don't really think SABRmatricians know so much more than ex-player scouts working for a million dollar business, who have actually watched Capps pitch. No stat, not even advanced ones, can measure everything. There are just too many factors going into every play. I think we need to just wait and see here to figure out what the Twins might have been thinking here. I'm holding out hope that there was some reason they did this, but I really don't know.

  2. Come on though, that's a cop-out argument because while yes, I agree that stats don't tell you everything, they do tell you most of what you need to know when there is a significant enough sample size, which there is in this case. The Twins got a pitcher who is very similar to Jon Rauch and who is *maybe* a mild upgrade as a closer.

    This whole thing is beside the point however. I don't mind that the Twins got Capps, I mind that they gave up a decent prospect for him when they, more than likely, could have gotten more. I am irritated that this team made a move that they didn't need to make, and for no apparent reason.

    I agree with you, I hope there is something bigger they have in mind because on it's face, this move was ridiculous.

  3. That really isn't a cop-out argument at all. I definitely do not agree stats can tell you most about what you need to know about a player--if that were true, baseball teams wouldn't bother spending money to fly scouts everywhere. Stats can be really misleading in many cases. And they do not measure future performance, especially under different coaches with different approaches (even if stats might provide some guidance). Kinda like, when is the sample size large enough? You can have a big old sample size, but what is it ends right before the player goes on a Delmon-esque tear and lives up to some huge potential? Then that stat (no matter how big the sample size) really wasn't all that useful when it comes to actually managing a baseball team in the present.

    At first I thought the trade was terrible, but after some thought I don't think it's quite so bad. Wilson Ramos has been having a pretty rough year. If the Twins held on to him and tried trading him in the off-season, ANY team would throw Ramos' 2010 performance in the Twins' face to lower the asking price (whether the other team believes Ramos has greater potential or not--that's how negotiating works). So he really didn't have the same value as a trading chip as he did earlier in the season, even if his potential hasn't changed.

    So, eh. My opinion is now that I just have to wait and see how this pans out. If Wilson Ramos ends up never performing to expectations, and Capps does well for the Twins, this trade could end up being labeled a winner. And I don't think that happening is too far out of the realm of possibility.

    And there have been a lot more positive thoughts on the trade than you listed:

    etc. I know many of these may have come out after you posted your blog though.

  4. I see what you're saying, and the fangraphs article was particularly helpful (love those guys).

    Like I said before, I'm not bummed that we now have Matt Capps, he's an improvement, albeit a slight one. I guess what irks me is making a deal they didn't have to make and trading low on a guy who has some clear potential. Why not wait until Ramos starts playing a little better?

    As far as stats go, I guess we just see things a little differently. Of course I'm not saying that stats tell you the whole picture. Bryce Harper is a perfect example of a guy who's stats tell you he'll probably be a great player, but who's attitude might be a difficulty in the clubhouse. But when we're talking about a trade for an established major league reliever, we have to look at the stats as fans because that is all we have and in this case, the Twins probably made a deal that they didn't have to simply because they already have a player in Rauch, who is similar and has been doing just fine in the closer role.

  5. This trade was crap. THe move was not made to upgrade the closer role so much as to have another reliable arm in the pen that can be counted on for higher leverage situations. But surely we could have a reliever for a lower cost or used our inhouse options. I would rather have thrown in another top prospect for Lee if we are going to trade talent like this.

  6. So if Ramos + Hicks and ostensibly a few lower-level pieces apparently wasn't enough for Lee, how much more talent do we pile in there? I'm not saying we shouldn't have, but it seems like the market wasn't going to give us the sort of return from what we considered top talent that maybe we thought.

  7. "I'm not saying we shouldn't have, but it seems like the market wasn't going to give us the sort of return from what we considered top talent that maybe we thought."

    I agree 100% and that's the problem with what the Twins did. Instead of holding on to what they had, they may a deal to sell someone low while only improving the major league club in a minor way. I read today that the Nationals are going to call up Ramos before the end of the year, so I guess we'll see what he's got for a bit.