June 16, 2010

Trade Possibilities: Ryan Doumit

PITTSBURGH, Pa. / June 16, 2010

I know, I know, I claimed the Pirates would win the World Series this year. I'm not giving up just yet, but it's a fact that the team's record is 23-41 and they're behind, well, every team in the National League in the playoff race. This being Pittsburgh, it's looking likely that once again the Pirates will be sellers at the trade deadline.

I expect nothing close to the carnage of 2009, when Adam LaRoche, Freddy Sanchez, Jack Wilson, Nyjer Morgan, Nate McLouth, Eric Hinske, Ian Snell and Sean Burnett all left Pittsburgh via trade. Nevertheless, the Pirates will no doubt be listening to offers for several players on their roster. In the coming days I'll take a look at the players who could be on the way out.

Why Trade Ryan Doumit?
As the old maxim goes, any player with a bobblehead is likely to get traded by the Pirates. Ryan Doumit falls into this category.

Of all the Pittsburgh position players who can actually hit, Doumit is the only one who's not here on a cheap contract with many years of club control remaining. He's hitting .273/.351/.444 which are numbers good enough to draw interest in a trade.

One reason to potentially trade Doumit is that as a below average defender, he has more value to an American League team. He's cost the Pirates more than a few runs this year with his defense. But in the AL, Doumit could DH every day and also serve as a backup catcher to whatever team traded for him. Many AL teams are using crap at DH and almost all are using crap at the backup catcher spot. Doumit would fill both roles with one roster spot.

It's also not beyond the realm of possibility that another team would trade for Doumit in order for him to be their starting catcher. Sure, he's been bad on balls in the dirt and at throwing out baserunners. However, some teams just value offense more highly than defense as an organizational philosophy. Washington comes to mind. Also, no general manager has seen every game Doumit has caught this season. You would have to watch the team quite a bit to realize just how bad he's been behind the plate.

With Tony Sanchez as their catcher of the future, the Pirates may want to trade Doumit while he's hitting and healthy. He's spent time on the disabled list every year of his career except for 2010.

Doumit is making $3.55 million this year, $5.1 million in 2011 and has club options for $7.25 million in 2012 and $8.25 million in 2013. That's a big contract for a Pirate but many large market teams easily could pay it.

What would the Pirates get?
Victor Martinez is an apt comparison. Martinez was traded last year from the Indians to the Red Sox. Like Doumit he's a good hitting catcher with a below average defensive reputation. At the time of his 2009 trade Martinez was hitting .284/.368/.464, comparable to Doumit's 2010 numbers, and like Doumit is now, V-Mart was coming off a year when he hit poorly and lost half the season to injury. Victor also had a year and a half left on his contract.

For Martinez the Indians got three pitchers. Justin Masterson headed the deal. Masterson was a 24-year-old righthanded starter with a 3.76 career ERA and 7.6 K/9 at the time of the trade. Not bad numbers in the AL East. 22-year-old lefthander Bryan Price, who was the #45 overall draft pick in '08 but had a 6.54 ERA for Boston's high Class A affiliate, nevertheless strikes out a lot of minor league hitters and was a legitimate prospect at the time of the trade. Nick Hagadone, the $55 overall pick in 2007, like Price was striking out more than a batter an inning at Class A. Yet he was also a 23-year-old low Class A reliever with no command.

Of course, Ryan Doumit would probably yield less than Martinez because his career just hasn't been as good. But he's not light years behind either. A Masterson-type pitcher might get a deal done without the two other pitchers.

Who Would Want Doumit?
I see three contending teams that would greatly improve by adding Doumit, along with a fourth that could be contending if they get on a hot streak. More teams could enter the picture with injuries, which are of course common at the catcher position.

1. The Tampa Bay Rays have the third best offense in the American League but has been getting poor production from their DH spot all year. With Pat Burrell released, Hank Blalock (.250/.291/.356) and Willy Aybar (.248/.273/.400) have been splitting time. Doumit would represent a clear upgrade over both. One problem with this destination is that Tampa is one of a few major league teams that actually has two good catchers, John Jaso and Kelly Shoppach.

2. The first place Texas Rangers have been using Matt Treanor as their starting catcher. The 34-year-old backstop is hitting .218/.303/.371, showing why he's never previously been a starter in his career. Texas has Taylor Teagarden and Jarrod Saltalamacchia both hitting poorly in the minors. Doumit would help their lineup quite a bit. However, Doumit wouldn't be able to DH at all in Texas with Vladimir Guerrero raking at the position.

3. The Chicago White Sox have been getting awful production from both the catcher and DH spots. Catcher A.J. Pierzynski (.236/.277/.372) should at a minimum be sitting against lefthanders. The White Sox have used various players at DH with Mark Kotsay (.202/.299/.364) the most common choice. Doumit would greatly upgrade the Sox lineup at either spot. The problem here is that it's unclear whether the 29-34 Sox will be buying or selling at the deadline. Pierzynski also has ten-and-five rights meaning he can't be traded without his approval.

4. Finally, the San Francisco Giants, in contention in the NL West on the strength of their pitching, have Bengie Molina as their starter hitting .256/.312/.337. The Giants could decide Molina is washed up at 35. I think this is a long shot because he drove in over 81, 95 and 80 runs for them the past three seasons with 19, 16 and 20 home runs.

The Verdict
Keep him. Unless the trade netted a major league catcher in return, losing Doumit would leave an immediate hole the Pirates are unable to fill. Jason Jaramillo is hitting .172/.246/.259 this year.

Perhaps the 2010 impact is irrelevant, but a Doumit trade would arguably constitute giving up on 2011 as well. Tony Sanchez is a great prospect, the best prospect the Pirates have who's still in the minors, but he's also playing at Bradenton. There's no way he'll be playing in Pittsburgh next year. Yet he probably will be in 2012. Trading Doumit would thus create a need for a catcher who is signed through 2011 only, which is exactly what Doumit himself is. No above average hitter would come here on a one year contract in 2011, so it's Doumit or some garbage free agent.

In his first five years Doumit threw out between 22 and 40% of baserunners, league average numbers. Thus this year's caught stealing numbers look like an aberration. More concerning is his poor performance in catching breaking pitches in the dirt, but with no other viable options that it something the Pirates have to live with (while working with Doumit on eliminating the problem).

Sanchez could progress to the point where by mid-2011 he represents an immediate upgrade to Doumit. If that happens, the time to deal Doumit will have come. It hasn't yet.

No comments:

Post a Comment