A side note to Joe Mauer's contract extension is the fate of Wilson Ramos (right), one of the few Twins minor leaguers who combines top-level talent with near-MLB readiness.
I commented on Ramos early on in this month's "Name that Twin" goofiness. I suggested at the time that — assuming Mauer was locked up — Ramos would be more valuable as a trading chip than as a backup catcher and specifically mentioned using him to acquire a Joe Nathan replacement.
Seth Strohs disagrees. From his Sunday post on the Mauer contract: NO, they should not trade Wilson Ramos, at least not for something as insignificant as a relief pitcher like Heath Bell.
I wouldn't call a Bell acquisition insignificant, especially since we know how wedded Ron Gardenhire is to the closer model of bullpen use. I would agree that Ramos figures to have more value over the course of his career than Bell will in what remains of his — but that assumes Ramos is going to play.
There may be one of those recurring manager-front office disagreements going on in Twinsland. Gardy, seeking wins now, probably wants to open the season with Ramos as his reserve catcher; the player development people probably want Ramos to play regularly in Triple A.
Assuming Mauer stays healthy — and we're all day to day — Ramos isn't ever going to be the Twins regular backstop. He'll grow old waiting for Mauer to grow old, just as Elston Howard did waiting for Yogi Berra.
I still like the trade bait notion best. Barring that, there's little reason to put him in Triple A next month. It's more important to have a reserve catcher Gardenhire is willing to insert in Mauer's place with some frequency than to develop him for a No. 1 job that isn't going to happen here.
A followup on my previous post's notion that Mauer is likely to overperform his new contract early and underperform it late: Here's a link to others with the same idea.