I really like the Twins’ deal with Ryan Doumit for one year at $3 million. The Twins need a lot of help after last year’s collapse, but getting help at catcher was something in particular they needed to do.
With Joe Mauer injured much of the year, the Twins had to start Drew Butera, Rene Rivera and Steve Holm a combined 115 games at the position. They were just dreadful at the bat.
Butera got the most playing time in Mauer’s absence, and he was the best hitter of the three fill-ins, hitting all of .167 with a .449 OPS. That tells you just how little offense the Twins got out of the catcher’s position in 2011.
Amazingly, Butera did not have the lowest OPS of any major league player with more than 200 plate appearances in 2011. That dubious honor went to Rays’ shortstop Reid Brignac, who was a point lower at .448. For what it’s worth, Brignac now has a career .597 OPS, while Butera’s is a mere .481.
The Twins also had three of the ten worst hitters in MLB with at least 200 plate appearances in 2011. In addition to Butera, Matt Tolbert came in at .518 and Japanese import Tsuyoshi Nishioka posted a lusty .527 OPS. Ben Revere’s .619 OPS was 5th worst of any player with at least 450 plate appearances, but at least he’s going to get better, probably by a lot.
Getting back to the Twins signing Doumit, he is catcher who can flat out hit. His defense is poorly regarded, and the commentators I read before the signing was announced felt that Doumit needed to sign with an AL team, where he can play at DH, because he really needs to spend less time behind the plate.
With Doumit as the primary back-up to Mauer, the Twins would have two catchers who can really hit and can contribute substantially as the DH when not behind the plate. A lot of people think Doumit’s offense will improve substantially if he spends less time catching.
Of course, the same can be said for Mauer. The biggest problem the Twins are going to have with Mauer and Doumit in 2012 is keeping them both healthy. Unfortunately, they can’t both be the back-up catcher and primary DH.
At the end of the day, there’s still going to be a roster spot for the better defender of Drew Butera and Rene Rivera — the winner of that roster spot should own the 8th and 9th innings of games the Twins are leading. For the Twins to get better in 2012, one of the things they need to happen is that their catchers not named Mauer or Doumit get fewer than 150 plate appearances.