Minnesota Twins interim GM Terry Ryan fired a second free agency salvo Friday as the club inked C-1B-RF Ryan Doumit to a one-year, $3 million deal. The deal, which is pending a physical scheduled for next week per Pioneer Press Twins reporter John Shipley, also includes unspecified performance-based incentives. Jerry Crasnick had tweeted earlier Friday that the former Pittsburgh Pirate was choosing between two teams, with the Seattle Mariners apparently drawing the short straw in the Doumit derby.
Since taking over the helm from Bill Smith just over a week ago, TR (too many Ryans to keep straight here) has been more active on the free agent market than in the past, as he officially inked infielder Jamey Carroll on Wednesday and had been linked to Doumit and Josh Willingham – both Matt Sosnick clients – as well a number of other free agents. The scaled-back budget doesn’t appear to be much of a deterrence to TR; after all, if expenditures settle in near the $100 million mark, that would still be nearly $30 million more than he ever had to work with during his first go-round with the club.
It’s an encouraging development for fans of a team desperate for good news following arguably the worst season in Twins history.
Doumit certainly had whittled his choices down to two clubs which could use his skill set. Dave Cameron noted that if the M’s had inked Doumit, he’d have immediately become one of the club’s best offensive players. Similarly, Doumit fits well within the Twins needs, as the team desperately showed it needed depth at the corners in 2011. That’s unlikely to change given the uncertainty surrounding Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and the space that’s currently assigned to Trevor Plouffe. Whether or not Doumit, who has only averaged 311 plate appearances per season, is the proper fit is the $3 million question.
Though I like the move for the Twins overall, let’s first consider that this isn’t a player without flaws. For one, he’s yet to eclipse the 500 plate appearance mark in his seven-year career, in part due to injuries but also to platoon situations (.798/.718 OPS platoon split). For a team that spent the most time on the disabled list league-wide last season, this has to be a worry. He also isn’t particularly adept defensively, as he grades out negatively in pretty much every defensive measure, including a glut of passed balls and only a 25 percent throw-out rate for attempted base thieves. Certainly some of that can fall on the pitchers, but I’ve yet to see a glowing scouting report on Doumit’s defense. This may be covered up with regular time in the DH role, which is also an open spot on the Twins roster with Jim Thome completely out of the picture and Jason Kubel seemingly on the outs as well. In this instance, at least a repeat of his .830 OPS from 2011 would be paramount, lest the Twins want to employ a below-average DH.
Among Doumit’s desireable attributes is his above-average pop, as his .171 iso can certainly attest. That a fair share his power tends to come from doubles and a small handful of triples will certainly help, as Target Field may quell some of his long ball power. Also, the platoon split may also be overstated a bit, as it’s really just less power from the right-handed side (.262/.329/.389) than the left (.275/.336/.461). One quirk in Doumit’s game that stands out is that he’s a dead pull hitter when he puts the ball on the ground, but much more of a push hitter when he elevates the ball. It’s hard to tell how exactly this will play out in cavernous Target Field, but Doumit has been a much better hitter at his home PNC Park – which typically plays rather neutral according to Baseball Reference park factors – than on the road.
As usual, $3 million doesn’t go very far on the free agent market, and TR did well to fill one of the club’s biggest holes – in reality, a couple holes simultaneously – relatively cheaply (and on a risk-free, one-year deal). Using extremely rudimentary math, that should buy about 0.6 WAR, a mark Doumit has failed to reach just once, in 2010, in his career. As yet, nobody from the organization has been quoted as such, but to me this move signals a white flag on the Cuddyer front, which probably also opens the potential for the club to sign Willingham, who for all intents and purposes is likely a better all-around hitter and should come at a fraction of the cost. By holding the second overall pick in the draft, this is also the best opportunity for the Twins to sign any Type-A free agents. By swapping out Cuddyer for Willingham, the Twins would gain a first round pick and similarly-talented hitter and it would only cost a second rounder, which the club would likely recoup in a Kubel signing.
It may be on the small scale, but TR seems to be working his magic again. After all, before figuring incentives, Doumit will only make as much as Tsuyoshi Nishioka in 2012. That’s something legal-aged Twins fans will drink to.
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