Twins Territory is abuzz with the exciting news that the Twins have signed Jason Bulger!
Just kidding. The buzz is actually due to the signing of catcher Ryan Doumit, who fills a major need (actually, several needs) and agreed to play for the Twins for $3 million for one year. But it was a busy day today, as the Twins did indeed sign former Angel reliever Bulger as well. To top it off, they added three players to the 40 man roster to bring it up to full strength.
Doumit has been with the lowly Pirates his whole career, but for much of that time he has been one of the team’s few bright spots. His best year was 2008, when he hit .318/357/.501 with 18 homers and 34 doubles in 116 games. Doumit never came close to matching that production again, but he has continued to be a decent hitter, especially for a catcher. Since the catcher slot was a gaping black hole for the Twins last year in Joe Mauer‘s absence, Doumit will be a welcome relief. He has also played 35 games at first base and 60 in right field in his career, which makes him a good insurance policy for Justin Morneau and/or Michael Cuddyer. Finally, he’s a switch-hitter, and that’s always a plus.
But you don’t sign a player like that for $3 million unless he has some downsides, and Doumit is certainly not perfect. By all accounts, he’s a subpar defensive catcher. And he has some injury issues to work through. He missed the first third of 2011 with a broken ankle (ouch), and the highest number of games he’s ever played in a season was 124 in 2010. Still, though, this is a good signing. Doumit is supposed to be a talented reserve player, not an everyday starter, so injury history is not a dealbreaker.
Interestingly, Doumit turned down a one year, $3 million offer from the Dodgers earlier in the week. Since he ended up signing with the Twins for pretty much the same terms, that must mean he likes the Twins or Minnesota better than the Los Angeles Dodgers. I think I’m starting to like this guy already!
Bulger signed a minor league deal with the Twins, but judging by his career history he’s got a better than even shot to win a bullpen slot. Some people might be turned off by his pedestrian 4.33 career ERA, his somewhat high walk rate, or the fact that he spent most of 2011 in the minors after a shoulder injury hurt him in 2010. But I’m an unabashed fan of the strikeout, and Bulger is a strikeout machine. He has whiffed 9.34 batters per nine innings in his career. That’s exactly the kind of number I like to see warming up in the bullpen in the seventh inning. Bulger’s fastball averaged about 92 mph last year, and he also has a curveball and a changeup. In earlier seasons he threw a slider as well, but his injury seems to have limited that pitch’s use. Bulger is a great bargain basement signing, and I would not be surprised if he became one of the team’s most competent relievers in 2012.
Finally, the Twins rounded off a busy day by adding pitcher Tyler Robertson, pitcher Carlos Gutierrez, and outfielder Oswaldo Arcia to their 40 man roster. These decisions could be crucial because players left off the 40 man are sitting ducks for the Rule 5 draft. I was a little surprised that Angel Morales was left off the roster, but perhaps the Twins thought his injuries and dip in 2011 production at Fort Myers would dissuade other teams from trying to nab him. David Bromberg was removed from the 40 man today to make room for the new additions. Bromberg had some injury problems, but he is still only 24, and he might have a bright future ahead of him (especially in a system that is so devoid of talented starting pitchers). Twins superblogger Seth Stohs expressed dismay with the move.
All in all, though, it was a good day for the Twins. They solved the backup catcher problem, added a potentially powerful bat, plugged another leak in the bullpen, and protected some young prospects. What else can you ask for?
Other than an ace starting pitcher, that is.