When TwinsCentric looked ahead to the Twins offseason this year, it’s fair to say that Ryan Doumit was prominently mentioned. Here is his writeup for the Offseason GM Handbook:
Age: 30 (4/3/81) | 2011 Salary: $5.1M
2011 Stats: .300/.350/.478, 8 HR, 28 RBI
When the Pirates acquired Chris Snyder from Arizona at the 2010 July trade deadline, it signaled the end of regular playing time for Doumit. After playing in 124 games in 2010, Doumit played in less than half of the Pirates games in 2011. However, he posted an OPS over .800, and his career OPS in seven seasons is .776. He has thrown out 25% of would-be base stealers in his career. Not exactly a strong defensive catcher, the Pirates have also tried him out at first base and right field in recent years. Pittsburgh has options for 2012 and 2013 at a combined $15.5 million, a lot for a part-time player, so we expect Doumit to be on the market.
And then he made it into half of our offseason blueprints. First Nick Nelson:
5) Sign free agent catcher Ryan Doumit for two years, $9 million.
With Mauer’s status hanging in the balance, the Twins need to add depth at catcher, preferably in the form of a player who could play somewhat regularly and add offensive punch to the lineup. Doumit has spent his career as a part-time guy with the Pirates, never playing in more than 124 games, but his .271/.334/.442 career hitting line is very solid for a catcher and he’s only 30. He’s not considered a strong defensive backstop, but Drew Butera can be kept around to fill that role and Doumit can also fill in at first base and in right field.
Seth targeted him in his blueprint, too:
#5 – Free Agent Signings
Ryan Doumit – C – After making $5.1 million in 2011 in Pittsburgh, he has a $7.25 million option for 2012 and $8.25 million in 2013. He will likely be non-tendered. Although he is not a great defensive catcher, he can definitely hit which would make him a good #2 catcher, DH and PH option. I’d offer him 2 years and $6 million.
(As usual, I’ll just mention – you can buy that Handbook. It’s really easy. It’ll come immediately. Doumit was mentioned NINE times in it. But best of all, it’ll make the offseason more fun and a lot shorter. Just click the button below.)
But there are reasons he was available – and not just available, but available at 1-year and $3 million. It’s for these reasons that I’m more cautious than my fellow TwinsCentrists. And I’d like to illustrate these with a couple of hard-learned lessons:
Lesson 1: A catcher is only described as “flexible” when he can’t catch.
If he could catch, he would never be moved from catcher. You would never know how flexible he is. The problem with signing Doumit is that while he protects the Twins a bit if Mauer can’t catch, he won’t be a real option for any extended period of time. That is especially true for the Twins and Ron Gardenhire, who aren’t too likely to put up with his brand of defense for too long.
Doumit has caught over 100 games just twice in him MLB career. Those two years he threw out 19.6% of base stealers. Overall, he’s thrown out just 24.6% of basestealers. But there is another reason why you can’t expect him to catch for any extended period of time.
Lesson 2: Rate stats don’t help you if you can’t stay on the field.
Here are excerpts from Doumit’s yearly review from rotowire.com, and invaluable subscription site for MLB fans. These are yearly evaluations as captured in that moment in time. See if you can see a trend….
2004 The switch-hitting Doumit had trouble staying on the field in 2004, but if he can beat the injury bug this season he has a chance to re-assert himself as a candidate to become the Pirates catcher of the future.
2005 - Health has always been a huge concern for Doumit. The 25-year-old switch-hitting catcher stayed healthy enough in 2005 to play 100-plus games (126) for just the second time in seven seasons of professional ball.
2006 - For the sixth time in eight professional seasons, Doumit missed significant time due to injuries in 2006. A balky hamstring caused the switch-hitter to play in just 61 games for the Bucs.
2007 - The oft-injured Doumit missed nearly half of the 2007 season with ankle, hamstring and wrist injuries, appearing in just 83 games while batting .274 with nine homers and 32 RBI.
2008 - He played in only 116 games, but that number was good for the second highest mark of his 10-year professional career.
2009 - It's safe to say the Pirates expected more out of their top backstop in 2009, but injuries, slumps and the trading of numerous veterans combined to sour Doumit's season. Doumit broke a bone in his wrist in April and didn't return until July.
2010 - Concussions ruined much of Doumit's usefulness in 2010 and it remains to be seen whether he can recover from multiple bouts of head injuries.
Honestly, when I got to the part about the concussions, I laughed out loud. Of course he has concussions. In fact, he has a history of them. Last year, while catching on 9/23 he took some foul balls to the face mask. He didn’t start another game after that.
Oh, and he was placed on the 60-day DL this last year, too, with a broken ankle.
Given the Twins medical history lately, I’m seriously worried about Doumit’s future. Playing for the Twins might kill him. And if he does die, the medical staff will wait at least five days before confidently placing him on the 15-day DL.
Lesson 3: Platoon splits can lie.
Doumit is listed as a switch-hitter, and hit career splits aren’t terrible: 798 OPS versus right-handers and 718 versus left-handers. But it’s important to look at the at-bats. Doumit has had 75% of his at-bats versus right-handers, which means he’s often been hidden against left-handers, and usually that means he’s not facing the really good left-handed pitchers.
The truth is that Doumit has never been able to convince the Pirates that he was anything more than a platoon hitter for most of his career. That includes last year, when he had only 54 at-bats against southpaws. For the Twins, a platoon hitter at catcher would be fine – but Mauer also hits left-handed.
So there are warts, to be sure. Personally, I’d have rather seen a right-handed hitting defensive backup catcher signed. Coincidentally, Gerald Laird signed with the Tigers today for $1 million. But for for 1-year and $3 million, Doumit is a decent gamble by the Twins, and it could turn out to pay off big.
But make no mistake – it’s a gamble.