By Adam Kilgore
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 30, 2010; D01
The Washington Nationals traded closer Matt Capps to the Minnesota Twins for highly regarded catching prospect Wilson Ramos late Thursday night. The move likely will hasten the ascension of rookie Drew Storen, the 10th pick of last year's draft, to the closer's role while sending the team's only all-star to Minnesota.
The Nationals also included $500,000 in the deal and will receive left-handed relief pitcher Joe Testa, who was recently demoted from Class AA New Britain to Class A Fort Myers.
Ramos, 22, currently at Class AAA Rochester, gives the Nationals a catcher to potentially replace Jesús Flores, whose shoulder surgery and subsequent setbacks have placed his future in doubt. Ramos, rated the No. 58 prospect in baseball before the season by Baseball America, appeared in seven games with the Twins in May.
Capps, who is fourth in the majors with 26 saves, was acquired this winter after the Pittsburgh Pirates did not tender him a contract. The Nationals signed Capps for $3.5 million for one year, but he will be due a large raise in arbitration this offseason, likely to somewhere between $7 million and $8 million.
For now, according to a team source, the Nats will use a committee of relievers to close games and use the whichever pitcher is the "hot hand."
Atahualpa Severino, a left-handed reliever at Class AAA Syracuse, will likely take Capps's spot on the Nationals roster.
Late Thursday night, Capps, in his final act with the Nationals, drove to Nationals Park so he could clear out his locker and prepare for an early morning flight, to Minnesota and into a pennant race. Capps had heard first from General Manager Mike Rizzo and then from Manager Jim Riggleman and pitching coach Steve McCatty.
"They appreciated the work that I had done," Capps said. "More than anything, they kind of appreciated the clubhouse stuff, the way I went about my business. To see the person is what's most important in my life. Hopefully, me the person left more of an impression than me the baseball player."
Capps, 26, had prepared for the possibility of a trade, saying he understood how the business of baseball operates. Still, "it kind of caught me off guard," he said. "I had heard a few things. I hadn't heard a lot about the Twins. I know it's a good organization, the year they're having has been great."
As Capps drove to Nationals Park, he had "different emotions." He felt excitement about joining a team in contention for the postseason. He also felt melancholy about leaving the Nationals. He expressed his gratitude in the Nationals believing he could be a closer after the Pirates non-tendered him following the worst major league season of his career, the same offseason in which his father passed away.
"I'm kind of saddened I'm not going to be around the guys I've been around the last four months or so," Capps said. "I've really enjoyed my time here in Washington. I knew it was a possibility. I'm saddened I'm leaving the guys I'm leaving."
Late Thursday night, Capps also felt strange. He had just closed a 5-3 victory over the Atlanta Braves. Now, he was driving to the stadium to pack his bags. "The Washington Nationals organization is a first-class organization," he said.