Ramos is only 22 years old, relatively strong defensively, and hit the cover off the ball this spring, showing the power that makes him a top prospect. Butera, who is four years older, showed he was strong defensively but hit the way you would expect a career .214 batting average minor leaguer might hit. And to be honest, he wasn’t even that good.
However, Ramos isn’t on the roster for two reasons. The more cynical reason is service time. When Ramos is on the 25-man roster he starts earning service time, and that tenure eventually raises his salary and leads to free agency. That’s hard to justify for a top player when he’s only playing a couple times per week. The second reason is playing time. As a top prospect, it would probably serve Ramos better to play full time in AA or AAA than only a couple of times per week in the majors.
On the other hand, you have the impact Ramos could have in the majors. He would probably get about six starts per month so long as Joe Mauer stays healthy. He would also give manager Ron Gardenhire a right-handed bench option with some power beyond Brendan Harris.
(And just for clarity, it’s worth noting that this future star slugger currently has just 31 home runs in his entire four-year minor league career. His career OPS in the minors? 790. His career slugging percentage? .447. He’s been young for his competition, and he had a monster winter and monster spring, but let’s be a little careful about the expectations we heap on this kid just yet.)
All the Ramos hype and excitement took me someplace I didn’t want to go. But I’m helpless. I’m a Twins fan, I’m a geek, it’s kind of sad, really….
If the Twins have a catcher who is so close to being an impact player at the major league level (and who cost just $400,000 per year), should they have given such an expensive contract to Mauer? Because while it’s nice to talk about how the Twins aren’t a small market team or how this is such a good signing for baseball, the reality is that the Twins could have spent $23 million per year in a lot of ways.
Mauer’s contract doesn’t begin until next year, and we don’t know exactly how much free agents will cost then, but you can get a pretty good idea by looking at what was available this year.
Or maybe you would like some insurance in case Ramos struggles. Well, you could bring in Ivan Rodriguez, who signed for $3 million per year, to mentor Ramos. Then you could bring in Jason Bay (.267, 36 HR, 119 RBI) for $15M to play left field, add Mark DeRosa to play third base ($6M). (That totals $24 million, but you can save a few million by getting rid of Young.) So Pudge, Bay, DeRosa and Ramos - or Mauer.
You want a closer instead? There weren’t any who signed for more than $7 million per year, so go ahead and sign three of them. Another starting pitcher? Other than John Lackey and Andy Pettitte, you could get any of them for $10 million apiece. Take two and grab Pudge to fill out the battery. Or mix and match. If you want to see all the salaries, check out ESPN’s free agent tracker.
Between this post, some of my KFAN appearances and my post a few weeks ago, I’m sure I’m going to be labeled as someone who hates Joe Mauer. Nothing could be further from the truth, as I remain convinced we’ll see him joust with the .400 barrier some August before this contract is over. I don’t even hate the contract. But I don’t love it, and I find the juxtaposition between the excitement about Ramos and the necessity to sign Mauer fascinating.
Remember back when supporting a new ballpark meant that you hated kids? Well, now you have your chance to love both. If you’re looking for some cool Target Field Collectibles and like supporting Make-A-Wish Foundation of Minnesota, check out this commemorative baseball or this commemorative plaque. You can find more details about it here.Speaking of Target Field, Dean Carlson provides a nice tribute to Shane Nackerud of Greet Machine. Back in the day, Shane was my go-to guy on all stadium news and we put together a fun board game in GameDay that illustrated the road the bill needed to take. He really was instrumental in publicly tracking legislators stands on the stadium.