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MLB Arizona Diamondbacks

What the Pirates Should Do With Catchers’ Options: Part 1

With the Pittsburgh Pirates now nearly a month into the 2011-12 offseason, the team’s front office has had a good amount of time to decide what it should do about its catching situation at the major league level.

General manager Neal Huntington has already stated that the Pirates are unlikely to to pick up the options of catchers Ryan Doumit and Chris Snyder. That doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the right move.

Here’s the deal: both of the catchers who opened the season on the team’s 25-man roster and were supposed to be the team’s primary catchers in 2011 A) were injured this season, B) are 30 years old and C) have expired contracts with team options that likely won’t be picked up.

I’ll start with Doumit, and write about Snyder tomorrow.

Doumit played in just 77 games last season due to an injured left ankle. When he did play, he was phenomenal. The switch hitter recorded a .303 batting average with eight home runs and 30 RBI, accompanied nicely by a .477 SLG%. Doumit also showed improvement defensively, compared to his 2010 season at least.

He threw out 13 of 41 runners for a 24% CS rate. That’s still pretty poor and is right around his career average, but was certainly better than the 11/79, 12% numbers we saw in 2010.

While Doumit is certainly one of the team’s better offensive players, he’s just as inconsistent as the rest of the team. Since 2005, Doumit has recorded batting averages of .255, .208, .274, .318, .250, .251, and .303. He hit nine home runs in 2007, then 15, 10, 13 and eight in 2011. Those are solid numbers on an offensively abysmal Pirates squad, and they would certainly be missed should Doumit leave via free agency.

We are left with two questions regarding Doumit: 1) Is his offensive talent enough to outweigh his defensive deficiencies and 2) is it enough to warrant picking up Doumit’s two-year club option, which says that the team must pay him $7.25 million in 2012 and $8.25 million in 2013.

Note: Doumit’s option states the team must pick up either both years or neither.

I’ll let Jon Anderson over at The McEffect answer the first question, which ends in a resounding yes.

As for the second question, that’s where the Pirates front office has a decision to make.

At first glance, it seems making Doumit the highest paid player under contract for next season would be a questionable decision, especially considering he’s not getting any younger and has had chronic injury problems for as long as I can remember.

If you ask me, though, the team needs to bring him back. Is his option hefty? Extremely, once you consider the team would be forced to pay him even more money in 2013.

But that comes with baseball. That comes with wanting to compete in a league which, for some unknown reason, refuses to control or level the amount of spending from one club to another. Bringing Ryan Doumit back to Pittsburgh greatly increases the team’s chance at winning, especially when you take into consideration the lack of any substantial major league catcher expected to hit the free agent market, in addition to the team’s lack of another major league caliber catcher in the system. (I’m sorry, Michael McKenry is a backup catcher. I love the guy, but he’s not a starting catcher on a team looking to compete. More on that later.)

Nobody is telling Bob Nutting he can’t spend money. If he wants to start competing, he’s going to have to start spending. The fans showed up this summer when the team was in first place. He knows the fans will show if he spends the money and puts a competitor on the field.

Picking up Doumit’s option would have been a good first step.

Follow Troy on Twitter @TroyPfaff