Patrick Reusse has been covering sports in the Twin Cities since 1968. He has been a Star Tribune sports columnist since 1988. His sportswriting credo is twofold: 1. God will provide an angle; 2. The smaller the ball, the better the writing.

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Motive was same in trades for Pominville, Capps

Posted by: Patrick Reusse Updated: May 7, 2013 - 10:25 PM

There was a suggestion on one of my controversial Twitter accounts that if the Wild failed to get out of the first round of the playoffs, it would be legitimate to make this connection: Johan Larsson for Jason Pominville = Wilson Ramos for Matt Capps.

Followers of the Wild are extremely supportive of team management on most matters, and several of those folks took umbrage at my Wild/Pominville and Twins/Capps comparison. A few protests said that Pominville's absence from the lineup due to a presumed concussion could not be blamed on him.

Obviously, the 140-character limit of Twitter failed to get across the point. This wasn't intended as a comment on Pominville's situation, but on the big picture that existed when the trade was made April 3.

Brian Hall, writing for the FSN website, put the Wild's attitude about the trade in perspective with this lead:

"The Minnesota Wild have missed the playoffs for four straight years. Firmly in the playoff pack this year, they have designs on much more than just a postseason appearance.

"Minnesota wants to take its shot now and is willing to pay the price to do so.

"The Wild dealt for Buffalo Sabres captain Jason Pominville before Wednesday's trade deadline, adding another important piece to a team that is tied with the Vancouver Canucks for first place in the Northwest Division with 44 points but is third in the Western Conference based on tiebreakers.''

That's what I was getting at in those 140 characters: The Pominville trade wasn't made with the motive to get the Wild in the playoffs (although that did turn out to be a chore). It was made to help trigger a significant playoff run.

With or without Pominville in the lineup, if the Wild's win on Sunday isn't followed by three more over the Chicago Blackhawks, then the trade goes down as a first-season failure ... as did the deal the Twins made for Capps on July 29, 2010.

There were only four playoff spots (as compared to eight for the Wild) available to the Twins in 2010. They were in a tighter circumstance when yielding Ramos, a top catching prospect, for Capps, than was the Wild when it traded for Pominville.

The Twins were in second place in the AL Central on July 29, one game behind the White Sox and three games ahead of Detroit. Still, it wasn't a trade driven strictly by the desire to have a reliable closer in order to win the division.

Jon Rauch had been acceptable in the closer's role. The Twins knew there was a solid chance to beat out the White Sox and the Tigers, even if they had stuck with Rauch. The Twins had designs on much more than just a postseason appearance.

The Twins felt this first season in Target Field was a time to take a shot at reversing the trend of quick departures from the postseason. And the feeling was they needed a real closer to make that happen.

Capps turned 27 on Sept. 3 of that year. He had been in the big leagues since 2006, with one poor season in Pittsburgh in 2009 that got him released. He landed with Washington the next season and had 26 saves in four months. He was named to the National League All-Star team.

Yet, Capps was on a last-place team, so it was easy trade for the Nats to make: a closer with nowhere to take his team for a 22-year-old catcher who was ready to play in the big leagues.

Capps did his job for the Twins. He was 16 of 18 in save opportunities. He also was 2-0 with a 2.00 ERA. The Twins won the Central by six games.

And then they were swept in three games by the Yankees. Capps pitched once and didn't have a save opportunity.

Forget making the postseason. Not getting out of the first round made the first season of the Capps trade a flop.

It got worse in 2011, when Capps returned on a $7.25 million salary and pitched poorly. He was around again in 2012, missing a share of the season with a sore arm.

Pominville, 30, has another season remaining on his five-year, $26.5 million. He has a track record as a goal scorer, and the odds are strong he will make Season 2 of the trade look much better than did Capps.

Of course, the Wild also gave much more to get him than the Twins did for Capps. The Wild surrendered a top prospect in centerman Larsson, plus goalie Matt Hackett, a first-round pick in this year's draft and a second-rounder in 2014. The Wild gets a fourth-rounder in 2014 along with Pominville.

It might work out. Larsson might go off the tracks as a prospect and Buffalo might screw up the high draft choices. Pominville might get 25-30 goals in Season 2. But for now, if the Wild doesn't upset Chicago and advance in the playoffs, the first season of the Wild's big trade will look like this:

Johan Larsson for Jason Pominville = Wilson Ramos for Matt Capps.





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