Matt Capps is one of the reasons Nationals baseball had an exciting ride early this year. There’s no denying that.
The team’s lone All-Star representative in 2010 was traded to the Minnesota Twins last night for catcher Wilson Ramos and left-hander Joe Testa. Both are prospect players who will start their time with the Nationals on the farm. Ramos will start at Class Triple-A Syracuse and Testa will report to Class-A Potomoc.
The 26-year-old Capps came to Washington during the off-season as a free agent. He signed a one-year, $3.5 million deal. In many ways, he was the boy with the golden touch for the Nationals bullpen who had often struggled before Capps came in as a stabilizer.
He leaves the Nationals leading the league with 26 saves. He did have a few blown save attempts this year, but that was of no consequence seeing as he was in fact selected to Anaheim for his first career All-Star Game.
Capps now has the opportunity to play for a contending team with the dream of playing in October not a far-fetched fantasy.
“I’m excited about the opportunity to go and play in the playoffs,” Capps told MLB.com’s Bill Ladson over the phone Thursday night. “Right now, I’m saddened I’m leaving a group of guys and the people in the Washington organization. They have been classy from the get go. When everything happened in December, when the Pirates non-tendered me, it was an empty feeling.”
“The Washington Nationals and everyone involved has been absolutely phenomenal. It’s something that I will remember for a long time. I certainly enjoyed my time. Now, I have to focus on moving forward and helping the Minnesota Twins.”
That leaves the closer duty, which has been Capps main responsibility during his 2010 tenure, to the other arms on tap. Sean Burnett, Tyler Clippard, and Drew Storen will all split the closing duties starting with tonight’s series opener against the Phillies and their newly acquired righty, Roy Oswalt.
The sting of Capps being traded won’t wear off for fans until a new closer cements himself in the roster, but don’t drown in those sorrows just yet.
General Manager Mike Rizzo is looking to the future, which is something for fans to smile about. The 22-year-old catching prospect, Ramos, is one of the best in baseball. He made his Major League debut this year for the Twins and went 8-for-27 with an RBI after batting .241 with 14 doubles, five home runs and 30 RBI in 71 games with Rochester of the Triple-A International League at the time of the trade.
Ramos also threw out 42 percent of would-be basestealers and was named the Eastern League’s number eight prospect last season.
Washington is in need of catching depth. Pudge isn’t getting any younger. Jesus Flores has missed the entire season due to a right shoulder injury with no timetable of when he’ll return. Wil Nieves isn’t an everyday starter. Rizzo played his chips right with acquiring an arm and bat to squat behind the plate, it’s all part of the plan for the future.
The other new arm in the roster, Testa, 24, was 1-1 with one save and a 3.330 ERA in 15 appearances with the Ft. Meyers Single-A Florida State League. Testa strikeout 8.3 batters per 9.0 innings pitched in 36 appearances while in the Twins’ system.
Capps will be missed in the District, but not forgotten. His presence on and off the field is unmatched. Here’s to the future of a franchise ready and willing to build – here, here.
Nats Loose Ends
- John Lannan returns from the farm to replace Stephen Strasburg in the rotation.
- Roy Oswalt makes his debut with the Phillies tonight at Nationals Park. Craig Stammen will start for Washington.
- Katherine Connors aka Miss Iowa will be throwing out the ceremonial first pitch before the Nats and Phillies start their three-game weekend series in response to Miguel Batista’s hilarious comment after Tuesday night’s emergency start.