Monday, November 21, 2011

Doumit is an Ideal Fit for Twins

As I looked over the list of catchers that would be available this offseason, one name stood out to me as a great fit for the Twins, given their situation. Apparently the front office felt similarly, as they agreed to terms on a contract with that very player on Friday.

Ryan Doumit is a switch-hitter who can hold his own from both sides of the plate, having posted an OPS of .711 or higher every year he's been in the majors. He's still in his physical prime -- turning 31 in April. And, most importantly, he offers defensive flexibility that could prove invaluable for a Twins roster packed with question marks.

To be sure, Doumit carries his own question marks, which is why he was available on a one-year deal at a $3 million base. He's not considered a strong defensive catcher, leading me to wonder if he'll be viewed as the true backup to Joe Mauer or more of an emergency option.

The larger concerns relate to health. Doumit has been injured a lot over the course of his career and this season was limited to just 77 games. Obviously, the last thing the Twins need right now is another guy who's going to be perpetually nicked up, but it's important to note that he doesn't seem to have any ongoing ailments that will carry into 2012.

Doumit has been tagged with the dreaded "injury-prone" label, but I'll point out that Carl Pavano had that same label when the Twins acquired him and he hasn't missed a start in Minnesota. As another example, J.J. Hardy was jettisoned a year ago largely because he had such a hard time staying healthy, and this year he logged more plate appearances than all but two Twins players.

In other words, you're only injury-prone until you're not.

For their part, the Twins can work to protect Doumit's health by limiting his exposure behind the plate. As mentioned above, I wouldn't be surprised if he's really more of a third catcher, drawing only occasional starts while also spending time at first base, right field and DH. If Mauer goes down or has to switch positions, Doumit would likely step in as the regular, but short of that I suspect Ron Gardenhire will try and take advantage of Doumit's versatility.

And as long as he continues to hit like he has, he'll be a solid asset wherever he's playing. His career .271/.334/.442 hitting line is very similar to Michael Cuddyer's (.272/.343/.451), and Doumit swings well from both sides of the plate -- though he's shown considerably more pop from the left side. Overall, he has hit 67 home runs in 611 career games -- which would average to about 18 per 162-game season -- and while Target Field might sap some of that power he's still a good bet to out-slug most of his Twins teammates.

As long as he can stay healthy, Doumit figures to be a very useful piece. He's a respectable insurance plan at catcher and -- if Mauer is able to hold up -- a quality bat to plug in elsewhere. For the price, you could hardly ask for a better acquisition.

Between the Jamey Caroll and Doumit signings, Terry Ryan has now already addressed the two areas I called out as the club's top offseason priorities while putting only around $6 million toward the 2012 payroll, leaving him in good position as he turns his gaze to pitching and outfield help.


Matt Groff said...

I'm with you so far on Ryan, he came in and has immediately addressed two huge needs. The latest rumors of Josh Willingham being an option has be excited as well. A right handed bat with power, and not bad OBP I think his was .332 last year?

I still think they should try to keep cuddyer and let kubel go. Cuddyer, Span, Revere and Willingham would be 4 OFs that would be excellent to rotate around.

Now if only they could get an impact SP like CJ Wilson, but I doubt it.

cy1time said...

I was happy about the Doumit signing until I looked a little closer. A couple of things stood out:

1. He played 26 games at First in 2006 and hasn't played even five games at first in a year since.

2. When playing catcher regularly, he routinely ranked in the bottom third of NL catchers in Errors and Passed Balls. I haven't seen him play enough to know if he passes the eyeball test, but Nick notes that we hope not to overexpose him at catcher.

I go back to my offseason blue print question, do you count on Mauer at C and Morneau at first? If those answers are YES & YES, then Doumit as a DH & positional versatile fill-in seems to be a very good fit. If either of those answer is no, is Doumit the guy that you want playing C or First on a regular basis? Let's hope he gets 100+ games at DH.

Mike said...

Doumit sounds like the kind of player that no matter where he plays, it isn't ideal, but as far as being a utility player of sorts, he'll be a good fit. If Morneau can't play first, Mauer can't catch, an outfielder goes down with injury, or if the Twins have a spot for a DH, he'll be able to fill in, at least temporarily. He won't be great in the field, but he should be good enough to give the team some much-needed flexibility.

Especially at the price, I think it's a good signing.

Chris said...

It seems that Doumit could become a much better catcher with a little training (do managers read this kind of stuff?)
It basically says that Doumit distracts umpires from calling strikes because of exaggerated body motion...if he can just calm down a bit and "stick the catch," he could become a more useful wouldn't help much with base-runners, though...

TT said...

Joe Mauer isn't injury prone. This year there were only 5 Twins players who logged more plate appearances...

On the 2010 Twins, Hardy's 567 plate appearances this year would have placed him in the same position, 6th on the team, barely ahead of Orlando Hudson. Hardy was healthy this year only by the standards of an "injury-prone" player.

As you point out, the value of Doumit is that he has exactly the skills needed to fill a variety of roles. He can pinch hit for Butera and stay in the game to catch. He can pinch hit for an outfielder and stay in the game. He can be used to spell Morneau at first base. He can DH. And, as a switch hitter, he can platoon/pinch hit for batters who have holes against either right or left handed hitters.

What I think the Carroll and Doumit signings show that Terry Ryan is painfully aware of the need for flexibility given all the questions going into next year. With two signings, he "filled" every potential hole on the team.

Which is not to suggest he is done. Obviously the Twins at least still need a right fielder and there is work on the pitching staff. But these two signings really make the rest of the off-season look a lot easier.

Mike said...

@TT- I don't follow the logic of your first two paragraphs. Joe Mauer isn't injury prone (despite frequent injuries and trips to the DL seemingly every year) because he finished 6th in PAs for a team where only two people qualified for the batting title. But JJ Hardy is injury prone because he would have been 6th on last year's team in terms of PAs, even though 567 PAs qualifies for the batting title and the 2010 Twins weren't hit by injuries like the 2011 Twins were?

But does it really matter if there is the "injury prone" label anyway? I don't think there are many people who realistically expect Mauer to be able to catch 120+ games this year. Anyway, maybe I'm just missing the point you're trying to convey, but it seems most people are in agreement that Doumit, while unspectacular, should provide some much needed flexibility at a few positions.

Nick N. said...

I go back to my offseason blue print question, do you count on Mauer at C and Morneau at first? If those answers are YES & YES, then Doumit as a DH & positional versatile fill-in seems to be a very good fit

That's what I like about him. If Mauer and Morneau can bounce back and do some damage, he's the type of guy that can fill in around the field and support them in the lineup If they can't, the Twins probably aren't going to be doing much, but Doumit can at least still be useful and it's just a one-year deal so you reevaluate after 2012.

USAFChief said...

Great signing. My only (minor) complaint is I wish the Carroll signing was for 1 yr, and the Doumit signing for 2, instead of the other way around.

Laches said...

Should be a good fit and will help plug some holes. He's a jack of all trades but master of none type, but that's useful to a team with as many question marks as the Twins have.

On another note, Joe Nathan is now a Texas Ranger. I hope Ryan now turns his focus to the bullpen. None of his other moves will mean a damn thing if the bullpen is as godawful as it was last year.

TT said...

Mike -

Sorry - that was a bit opaque. I was being sarcastic about Mauer.

My real point was that Hardy having more plate appearances than all but two Twins this year doesn't say much about how injury prone he is. There were only two Twins regulars who weren't injured.

Hardy played in 129 games, ten less than Cuddyer. That is the most he has played in three seasons. Had he done that last year, he would probably still be a Twin. If he can stay that healthy going forward, the Orioles will have gotten a bargain. But it hardly proves the Twins were wrong to doubt his durability.

Mitch said...

TT, I seem to recall lack of foot speed to be the main reason the Twins dumped Hardy for next to nothing, with his durability as a lesser contributing factor. I'm on Nick's boat in terms of the "injury prone" label -- a player is injury prone until he isn't.

Regardless, trading him was a massively idiotic decision that showed Bill Smith's complete inability to evaluate talent/understand basic sabermetric analysis. That move alone deserved to get Smith fired; 99 losses just made it inevitable.