UPDATE: It appears my prediction was correct – Drew Butera is going north with the Twins and Wilson Ramos is starting the season in AAA Rochester. Not surprising, but as I say below I would have gone in a different direction were I the one in charge.
The Twins final position player decision of the spring should come very soon, with the Twins brass having met Tuesday night to decide whether to bring Drew Butera or Wilson Ramos north as Joe Mauer’s backup while Jose Morales gets healthy. Ron Gardenhire is very publicly pushing for Wilson Ramos. It seems likely that Bill Smith is leaning towards Drew Butera. What will be (or, at this late hour, perhaps I should say has been) decided?
First, my guess: Bill Smith will not be convinced by Gardy’s arguments in favor of Ramos. I believe the team will take Drew Butera north. The reasons: (1) Ramos needs to start every day in AAA; (2) Butera has more ‘high minor’ experience and is therefore arguably more ready for the rigors of MLB play; (3) Butera is more polished defensively. You can also add a fourth — the longer the Twins keep Ramos out of the big leagues, the longer the Twins can control his rights. Some fella named Mauer is blocking Ramos’ progress in the organization, of course, so this ultimately may mean more to whatever team Ramos ultimately ends up with (he could potentially stay with the Twins long term, but it seems unlikely — and that would be the subject of another post).
Is taking Butera north the right move? Personally, I don’t think so. Butera is a skilled defensive player with no bat whatsoever. It’s nice to know he’ll be able to handle a staff reasonably well and won’t let curveballs fly to the backstop consistently, but is he really so much better in this department than Ramos? It seems likely to me that Ramos is better offensively relative to Butera than Butera is defensively relative to Ramos (and hopefully that makes sense — it’s late and I’m tired). Ramos is a guy who seems like a special player waiting to burst onto the scene. I think Gardy is right when he says that having Ramos on the bench would open up some additional possibilities to rest Mauer — while having Butera on the bench would probably lead to Mauer playing far more frequently in April and May than should probably be the case.
What about the arguments I suspect Bill Smith is putting forth? Well, to take them in turn: (1) Ramos will have plenty of time to play every day in AAA from mid-May on after Morales returns. The 45 or so days of Major League experience would be an invaluable learning experience, giving Ramos direct evidence of what he needs to work on and giving him on-the-job training with Mauer; (2) Neither Butera nor Ramos has any MLB experience. I don’t care how many innings Butera has caught in AA and AAA — it’s not MLB. In an ideal world you would want the more experienced catcher — but experience doesn’t trump ability, and Ramos seems to have more of what counts; (3) Butera is undoubtedly more polished defensively, but he will also probably play just once a week if he comes up. How advantageous is it to have even a ‘special’ defensive catcher who plays so rarely? I highly doubt it is worth even a single additional win over the span of that few games. It’s far more likely that Ramos’ bat would have an influence in limited action than Butera’s defense would; and finally (4) the players that give the team the best chance to win should go north. Worrying too much about a guy like Ramos getting some ML service time is just overthinking the issue.
Hopefully, I’ll have to update this post tomorrow to say that I was wrong about my prediction and that Gardy succeeded in getting Ramos on the roster. We shall see!