Should Twins offer Wilson Ramos for Cliff Lee?


If the Twins want a second ace left-hander for the postseason, that’s probably what it will take. Cliff Lee went 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA for the Phillies last October. The team won all five of his postseason starts, with Lee pitching 40 1/3 of a possible 45 innings in those games. His addition to a rotation featuring Francisco Liriano, Scott Baker and one from a group of Carl Pavano, Nick Blackburn and Kevin Slowey would transform the Twins from likely ALDS victim into a legitimate threat to win the World Series.
And the Twins could get him for a player who has no obvious role in the team’s future plans.
Now, Wilson Ramos does appear to be a special talent. And the Twins could find a way to incorporate him in 2011 and beyond if they wanted to. But it’s doubtful he’d be anywhere near as valuable elsewhere on the field as he is behind the plate. For what it’s worth, while he was impressive in his brief stint replacing Joe Mauer earlier this year, he’s hitting just .229/.262/.346 with a 33/7 K/BB ratio in 179 at-bats for Triple-A Rochester. He seems to have turned things around recently — he’s batting .339 in June — but he’s not in the same league with, say, Carlos Santana as an offensive prospect.
The 22-year-old Ramos shines more brightly on defense. He should contend for Gold Gloves someday, and with his ability to hit for average, it’d be no surprise to see him serving as Mauer’s backup on All-Star teams a few years down the line.
Still, Ramos’ greatest value to the Twins is likely as a trade chip. But is it worth parting with his next 6 1/2 seasons in return for a half-season of Lee?
I think it is. The Twins would have very little chance of keeping Lee as a free agent, but they’d be in line for a first-round pick and a supplemental first-rounder after he departs. That’s a big key here. It’s why the Mariners won’t part with Lee cheaply even if they end July with no chance of headed to the postseason.
Barring a big turnaround over the next several weeks, Seattle, though, should be willing to let him go for Ramos and a lesser pitching prospect. Adam Moore is a solid young catcher, but he might be more of a long-term backup than a regular. The Mariners lack young talent on offense. Ramos isn’t the long-term cleanup man they need, but as sort of a right-handed-hitting version of A.J. Pierzynski, he’d soon be an upgrade in the sixth or seventh spot in the lineup.
The Mariners might shoot for more and try to come up with someone who could put up big numbers immediately. Or perhaps they’ll aim for the Yankees’ Jesus Montero, who could well be a cleanup hitter but who figures to accomplish it as a first baseman, rather than as a catcher. I think Ramos is likely as good as they’re going to do. He can contribute right away, and he’ll be useful even if he doesn’t hit during his first couple of seasons.

Playoff Reset: The AL Wild Card Game

Wild Card
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Each day throughout the playoffs we’re going to be doing what we’ll call a reset. Not always a preview, not always a recap, but a generalized summary of where we stand at the moment and what we have to look forward tonight.

Today, of course, is Day One of the playoffs so we can really only look ahead, so let’s look ahead to what’s on tap in tonight’s one and only game.

The Game: Houston Astros vs. New York Yankees, American League Wild Card Game
The Time: 8:08 PM Eastern. Or thereabouts.
The Place: Yankee Stadium, New York
The Channel: ESPN
The Starters: Dallas Keuchel vs. Masahrio Tanaka

The Upshot:

  • Dallas Keuchel is the Astros’ ace and may very well win the Cy Young Award, but he’s (a) pitching on three-days’ rest; and (b) not in Minute Maid Park, where he is clearly superior compared to how he does on the road. At the same time, (a) the Yankees haven’t figured him out this year, going scoreless against him in 16 innings and striking out 21 times, including a poor performance against him in the Bronx a month or so ago; and (b) lefty sinkerballer types are basically the platonic ideal of a pitcher you want to throw against the Yankees to drive them crazy. While, historically, pitchers going on short rest in the playoffs fare poorly — in the past 20 years they are 18-37 — sinkerballers and extreme groundball pitchers fare much better than most. It ain’t a perfect setup for him, but you gotta like Keuchel here.
  • Meanwhile, Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka has made one career start vs. the Astros: this year, back on June 27. He got beat up, allowing six runs in five innings, receiving no decision. Those disclaimers about past performance not being indicative of future results you see in financial services commercials should apply to this and all other past matchup stats you see in the postseason, however. One random start here or there — or two in Keuchel’s case — doesn’t tell us a ton. This is baseball and tomorrow is always another day. At least if you don’t lose the Wild Card Game. More of a concern for Tanaka: rust. He has pitched only once since tweaking his hamstring against the Mets on September 18 and it wasn’t a good outing. At least he’s rested?
  • Both teams are dependent on the longball but both teams have struggled at times on offense down the stretch, with the Yankees’ bats being particular quiet in the season’s last month or so. Someone needs to wake up A-Rod. And Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Chase Headley and Brian McCann for that matter too. Of course, all of that firepower may not matter. The playoffs often see offenses go quiet and pitching come to the fore. Both teams have decent bullpens — the Yankees’ far, far more than decent — and given Tanaka’s rust and Keuchel’s short rest, this one is very likely to come down to multiple innings of hard-throwing relief. That favors the Yankees if they can keep it close.
  • Both teams are basically stumbling into the postseason, with the Yankees having lost six of their last seven games. They’re also under .500 since the end of July. The Astros swooned themselves in the second half, going 11-16 in September before rebounding in the season’s last week. Good thing momentum generally isn’t a thing in the playoffs — remember those 2000 Yankees losing 15 of 18 before the playoffs started and then won the World Series! — because neither team here has much of it.

This is the Astros’ first playoff game in a decade. While the Yankees haven’t been in the postseason since 2012, there is a lo tof playoff experience here, making this an interesting study in contrasts from a storyline perspective. At least if you’re into storylines. Personally I’m not. I’m more into baseball games and in this baseball game, I think Keuchel is a tough draw for the Yankees, even on short rest, and that for New York to advance they’re gonna have to be a team they haven’t been for weeks and maybe months: one that lays off junk down low and hits the ball hard.


Mike Scioscia will return as Angels manager in 2016

ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 21:  Manager Mike Scioscia #14 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the dugout during batting practice before a game against the Minnesota Twins at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 21, 2015 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)
Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images

It was assumed already, but Mike Scioscia made it official during Monday’s press conference for new general manager Billy Eppler that he will return as Angels manager in 2016.

Scioscia, the longest-tenured manager in the majors, has been at the helm with the Angels since 2000. There was a clause in his contract which allowed him to opt out after the 2015 season, but he has decided to stay put. He still has three years and $15 million on his contract, which runs through 2018.

Jerry Dipoto resigned as Angels general manager in July amid tension with Scioscia, so there were naturally questions today about what to expect with first-time GM Eppler in the fold. According to David Adler of, Scioscia isn’t concerned.

“I think we’re going to mesh very well,” Scioscia said. “If we adjust, or maybe he adjusts to some of the things, there’s going to be collaboration that’s going to make us better.”

Eppler is the fourth general manager during Scioscia’s tenure with the team.

After winning the AL West last season, the Angels finished 85-77 this season and narrowly missed the playoffs. The team hasn’t won a postseason game since 2009.