Jun 17, 2010, 6:30 PM EST
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.
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