It seems strange that the Twins, a team looking for catching help, would deal one of their catchers. But the trade of Ryan Doumit to Atlanta for prospect Sean Gilmartin on Wednesday gives them another young pitcher while freeing up at-bats for other players.
The Twins receive a 2011 first-round draft pick who moved quickly through the Braves farm system after being drafted 28th overall out of Florida State. Gilmartin, 23, doesn’t throw hard but has a good slider and changeup.
“He has a pretty good feel for what he is doing,” Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said. “He knows how to locate.”
Gilmartin began his professional career with one start at rookie ball but opened 2012 at Class AA Mississippi, where he was 5-8 with a 3.54 ERA in 20 starts. He was promoted to Class AAA Gwinnett County for seven starts, then had a chance to win a spot in the Braves rotation in 2013 but faltered.
While back at Gwinnett County, he landed on the disabled list in June because of rotator cuff inflammation, limiting his season to 20 starts in the minor leagues, when he went 4-8 with a 5.06 ERA.
“He had a difficult year last year,” Ryan said. “He had shoulder issues and was out for quite some time. He moved through their system quite rapidly, that’s encouraging. Hopefully we can help him rebound.”
Gilmartin being lefthanded also addresses a need within the organization.
Doumit struggled at the plate in 2013, batting .247 with 14 homers and 55 RBI. He spent 56 of his 119 starts hitting in the No. 5 spot in the order, where he batted .219. With runners in scoring position, he batted .199.
The switch hitter was versatile in his ability to catch, play the outfield and be the designated hitter. The Twins, however, want to free up the DH spot. Josh Willingham could spend some time there in 2014, and Ryan pointed out that Jason Kubel, Chris Parmelee and Chris Colabello could have roles on next year’s team.
“With Joe Mauer at first base, we need to find out about these guys,” Ryan said. “That was part of it.”
The Twins already were in the market for a catcher, so the trade makes their situation appear to be even more urgent. Several catchers are already off the free-agent market, but the Twins have shown interest in Kurt Suzuki and John Buck. Neither is considered a strong offensive catcher anymore, but the Twins are looking for a veteran catcher to potentially pair with prospect Josmil Pinto.
Pinto is the future of catching in the organization, but the Twins want to see him sharpen his skills behind the plate. They are excited about his hitting; he batted .342 with four home runs and 12 RBI in 21 September games.
Pinto, 24, is supposed to be playing winter ball for Aragua of the Venezuelan League but has been shut down because of a sore shoulder. He is not supposed to throw for a couple of weeks.
“We’re going to have to have somebody that can kind of lead the way for him,” manager Ron Gardenhire said of Pinto last week during baseball’s winter meetings in Orlando. “He’s a pretty tough kid. We saw some things last year that he needs to work on. Offensively, he’s strong enough. He did all right.”
The Twins this week have shifted their focus from starting pitching to position players. Either Thursday or Friday they officially will announce the re-signing of righthander Mike Pelfrey to a two-year, $11 million contract, the third free-agent starting pitcher they will have signed this offseason. Then they will try to address their hitting.
The Twins announced Wednesday that assistant GM Rob Antony was named vice president, assistant GM. Antony will be responsible for major league contracts, including arbitration; evaluation of major and minor league players; and day-to-day oversight of the club’s video, baseball analytics and baseball communications departments. Ryan used to handle some of those roles, but he can focus more on the on-field product now.