After a brief slump, Tony Sanchez recently resumed his domination over the Florida State League. Here are his career numbers, excluding 27 plate appearances split between State College and Lynchburg in 2009:
Ryan Doumit is also hitting well, only at the major league level. He has a .360 wOBA, which essentially matches the offensive performance of his career year in 2008. He is 29-years-old, has an injury history and is lousy defensively. He is due $5.1 million in 2011, then the Pirates must decide whether to exercise an option that would pay him $15.5 million over 2012 and 2013.
At Triple-A Indianapolis, catchers Erik Kratz (.316/.400/.600 in 110 PA) and Luke Carlin (.300/.417/.410 in 120 PA) are performing very well. Jason Jaramillo has struggled at the plate this season, but the catching depth at the upper levels is relatively decent.
The conditions for a Doumit trade are almost ideal. His value is high, there are options to replace him and the Pirates have numerous other holes at the major league level that require filling.
I have been in favor of trading Doumit since the 2008 season ended. In fact, I wrote the following on October 1, 2008:
The Pirates should expect to be shopping Doumit around 2010, meaning the minor league catching depth needs a huge upgrade.
It appears the Pirates now have a cornerstone catcher of the future in Sanchez. It will be at least mid-2011 before he arrives in Pittsburgh, but Jaramillo, Kratz and Carlin should be able to bridge that gap if necessary. That being said, Sanchez needs to see some extended time at Double-A before the trade deadline arrives. That minor league level tends to distinguish the legitimate prospects from the marginal ones. This may be especially true for Sanchez, as his biggest question mark has always been bat speed, which could hinder him against more advanced off-speed stuff. The front office needs to find out a little more about Sanchez’s future expectations, in case a rival GM comes calling with a decent offer for Doumit at some point over the next two months. The Jaramillo, Kratz, Carlin triumvirate can hold its own for a year or so, but it is not a long-term option. Management needs to be sure about Sanchez before dealing Doumit.
That being said, Neal Huntington should not feel forced to trade Doumit. In 2008, I was not convinced he would produce over the long-term. His BABIP was unsustainable and a 4.9% walk rate was almost useless. However, after a difficult 2009 season, he is having a legitimate 2010 season at the plate. His .304 BABIP is reasonable and his walk rate has risen to 10.1%. Even with his struggles defensively, he is well above average when healthy. If the trade offers leave something to be desired, Doumit would serve as an excellent bridge to Sanchez.
To recap, move Sanchez to Double-A and see what he can do. If he continues his impressive offensive production, feel free to welcome all offers on Doumit. Swap Doumit for a valuable non-catching commodity and use stop-gaps behind the plate until Sanchez is ready to take over for good.