Nick's piece got me thinking...how could the Twins have gotten themselves into this situation when less than a year ago, they had an effing logjam at catcher that every team would have been envious of. For those of you who've forgotten:
Jose Morales - C - Age 28
The Twins drafted Morales in the 3rd round of the 2001 draft and his arbitration eligibility would have started in 2012; he would not have been a free-agent until 2016. The Twins decided to trade him for a minor league pitcher, Paul Bargas, in December of last year. Morales has been a back-up for the Rockies this year and hasn't exactly lit the world on fire, but his .630 OPS, as paltry as that is, is still 280 points better than the Twins best option so far this season. Meanwhile Paul Bargas, the guy the Twin traded Morales for, has tragically been diagnosed with brain cancer and is currently undergoing chemotherapy. My point here is that the Twins could have kept Morales, passed on the rather average young lefty and been a lot better off right now.
Wilson Ramos - C - Age 23
The Twins signed young Wilson Ramos as a free-agent in 2004 at the age of 16. Ramos went on to develop nicely in the minors, posting a .285/.332/.431 triple-slash in ~1,600 career MiL plate-appearances. Last year, in the midst of a playoff run, Bill Smith and the Twins front office decided to use the organization's most valuable trade piece to acquire closer Matt Capps from the Washington Nationals. Ramos didn't play much for the Nationals last season (54 total PAs) but this year he has had regular playing time and is hitting .319/.377/.493 so far in 77 PAs with 2HRs and 7 RBI. Like Morales, Ramos won't be a free-agent until 2016. Ramos has accumulated 0.9 WAR (wins above replacement) so far this season while Capps, in his entire time with the Twins to this point, has accumulated about 1.0 WAR.
So, just to make my point glaringly obvious...The Twins had two offensively capable catchers, both of whom would have been under team control through 2015, and traded them FOR RELIEVERS.
More to the point of my overall piece, I believe the Ramos for Capps trade has the potential to ruin the Mauer contract. I have to imagine that the Twins were at least aware that the likelihood of Mauer finishing out his contract as a catcher were slim to none. At age 28, Mauer simply doesn't have many years left behind the plate if he a) wants to remain healthy and b) wants to remain productive. So, knowing that, why did the Twins feel that Ramos was an expendable piece? Wouldn't you plan for the worst-case scenario, especially when it virtually costs you NOTHING to have that insurance in your back pocket? As things stand now, the Twins have no one in the farm system who could play an offensively-competent everyday catcher role and to me, that's a travesty.
During this past off-season, which saw the Twins budget-strapped under the weight of several large contracts, many pointed towards next season when the expiring contracts of Joe Nathan and Michael Cuddyer will free up some extra-cash. Ostensibly the Twins would have used that money to fill some holes in the bullpen and perhaps in the middle-infield as well. Now they need to strongly consider getting a competent back-up catcher as well, a need they would most likely not have had if they had simply held on to Ramos...or even to Morales.
I've been vocal in my criticism of the post-Terry Ryan front-office and my criticism continues. Aside from the moves to bring Orlando Hudson and JJ Hardy on-board following the 2009 season, Bill Smith has made