While free agency has just started and few players have inked contracts, the Yankees’ offense seems to be fairly close to complete. There are not many areas of their offense they can upgrade in a cost effective manner, with DH the only position that is technically open. Jesus Montero is available to fill that role. Instead, the bulk of the work on the Yankees’ offense will come on the bench, as Brian Cashman attempts to supplement an aging lineup with a versatile and powerful group of reserves. They will likely look for a player in the Andruw Jones/Marcus Thames mold, a righty bat who can mash lefties and can play corner outfield. Assuming Eduardo Nunez remains in the utility role, the Yankees are also likely to bring in a replacement for Eric Chavez, a market that has a number of available options (I discussed this in greater detail last week).
If the Yankees carry 14 position players, that leaves two more slots available for bench players, one of which might be filled by a pinch runner/defensive replacement from the Chris Dickerson/Greg Golson family. The other slot should go to a third catcher, who is made necessary by the fact that the backup catcher (Montero) is also the regular DH. The problem with this plan is that carrying a guy like Gustavo Molina practically wastes a roster spot, as he would never be used in any context other than to catch a few innings if Martin has been pinch-run or hit for and Montero is in the game at DH. This seems like a fairly inefficient use of roster space for a team that could afford a more creative alternative. Enter Ryan Doumit.
- In terms of the roster inefficiency I mentioned above, Doumit gives you many more options than a traditional backup catcher might. He can play first base and right field as well, which would allow Joe Girardi to use him occasionally to rest Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira.
- Most importantly, he does not hit like a catcher. Doumit is a switch hitter with a .336 wOBA for his career, and his numbers have been dragged down by some injury plagued seasons. When healthy, he provides a strong bat for someone who would be a part-time player.
- Considering that their other two catchers and their other back-up outfielder are all going to be righties, it helps that Doumit is a switch-hitter who hits better from the left side. He is not unusable against lefties, with a .315 career wOBA against them, but he hits righties to the tune of a .344 wOBA and most of his power comes from that side.
- Doumit played in just 71 games last season due to an ankle injury that came in late May, but did hit .303/.353/.477 for a 129 wRC+.
- Doumit is just 30 years old, so he should have a few effective seasons left in his bat.
- Doumit can play a number of positions, but he does not play any of them particularly well. He is adequate in right field, poor at first base, and atrocious behind the plate, which is a problem considering that his primary defensive role is as the extra catcher.
- Ryan is frequently injured, spending time on the DL in every season since 2005.
- As I mentioned above, he is not a great hitter against lefties.
Personally, I think Doumit is a perfect fit for this Yankees’ roster. He would serve as the extra catcher, but brings other skills to the table that would allow him to accumulate a reasonable number of at-bats. He could be the primary pinch-hitter against righties, and would allow Joe Girardi more flexibility in terms of how he uses Russell Martin and Jesus Montero, as well as when he rests Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira. For an illustration of the sort of situations in which an extra catcher who can hit lefties well would be useful, see Russell Martin’s at-bats against tough righties in big spots in the ALDS. He could also be a hedge against injuries at a number of positions, and the Yankees would not be hurt too badly if he was forced into regular duty. Furthermore, while he does have flaws, those can be mitigated by the role he would play on the Yankees. He would not be counted on to play catcher for any extended period of time, and his brittle nature could be offset by being used less frequently. If the Yankees could get him on a short-term deal with an AAV of $4-5 million dollars, he would be a strong addition to the club and would represent excellent and efficient use of a roster spot.
All that said, the reasons that I like Doumit are the same reasons that other clubs might offer him good money to start for them. There is supposedly a healthy market for his services, and he might find a club willing to take a chance on his health or his defense and offer him something more than the 250 or so at-bats the Yankees could guarantee. If so, he is unlikely to take a bench role and would end up being too expensive for the Yankees anyhow.