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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.
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