The Pirates’ curious decision to forego 2 reasonably-priced option years for catcher Ryan Doumit was compounded last week when the club signed backstop Rod Barajas to a 1-year $4,000,000 contract, with a 2013 club option for $3,500,000. Barajas is inferior to Doumit in almost every aspect. Consider the following:
1. Age– Doumit will be 31 in the 2012 season, Barajas 36. Despite the “depth” GM Neal Huntington has supposedly built in this organization, it’s disconcerting that he’s still relying on Dave Littlefield-esque veterans in their mid-30’s a full 4 years into his “successful” tenure.
2. Production– Doumit had an excellent 128 OPS+ last season, which has largely gone overlooked by both fans and the Pirates alike. Barajas had a 97 OPS+, or slightly below average for the catching position. But what Barajas has in power is completely nulified by his abysmal on base skills. Barajas hasn’t had a .300+ OBP since George W. Bush was in office. His OBP’s over the past 4 seasons are…
2011 .287 2010 .284 2009 .258 2008 .294
In fact, the only time in his career Barajas finished well over a .300 OBP was in a small sampling of 48 games for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2007. In fact, Barajas has finished below .300 in 9 of his 11 MLB seasons (not counting 5-game stints in 1999 and 2000…when he also finished under .300).
We’re dealing with a player whose career .284 OBP is the catching equivalent of Ronny Cedeno- who the Pirates just released due to his lack of production.
3. Defensive Ability– The major knock against Doumit is his declining play behind the plate. Those concerns are well-warranted, although I don’t think it would be difficult to move his bat to 1B, where he has played off and on throughout his career. But Barajas isn’t any better. Defensive catching metrics have Barajas as the better career defender, but slightly worse in 2011. And being 5 years older, he isn’t likely to improve.
4. Durability– Another slight on Doumit is his tendency for fluke injuries season after season. But both Barajas and Doumit have only eclipsed 400 at bats twice in their careers (and Doumit’s is 4 years shorter). In fairness, much of Barajas’s low at bat totals are due to his status as a backup for some of his career. But is a 36-year old backup catcher really the solution?
So in summary, Barajas is older, less productive at the plate, an OBP black hole, and defensively, is just as questionable as Doumit. So why the move? In my mind, here’s the one number that mattered:
Doumit $15,000,000 over 2 seasons
Barajas $4,000,000 over 1, with a max of $7,500,000 over 2
Simply put, this was a matter of saving money on an already league-low payroll. And we as fans are going to pay the price for that come 2012.
Thanks for reading.