Pirates Sign Ryan Doumit to Extension

First, many apologies for the last few days. I went to Kentucky and Ohio to play some concerts, which I thought would take me out of the action for only 36 hours or so, but then I ended up staying with a brother (Sam's twin Pete) who, it turns out, doesn't have internet. I spent the next day in the studio and then today, I didn't have a car and it was frigid in Morgantown, so I didn't try to walk anywhere.

Anyway, Bolton got to the news first, but I want to comment on Ryan Doumit's contract extension. As I've said before, Doumit's fragility scares me, and it's quite possible the Pirates are signing him just as he starts to go downhill. The fact that he's several years from being eligible for free agency, though, gives the Pirates the opportunity to control Doumit's rights for a long time at minimal risk.

This deal is great for Doumit--he's guaranteed $11.5 million, which sets him up for life--and it's great for the Pirates, too. The Pirates buy out Doumit's arbitration years for reasonable prices, but the real key to this deal from the Bucs' perspective is the ability to exercise an option for what would've been Doumit's first two free agency seasons in 2012 and 2013 (and yes, "an option" is apparently the correct language there--that is, the Pirates get one decision about both seasons). The Pirates would pay reasonable prices for those two seasons ($7.25 million for 2012, $8.25 million in 2013) if Doumit's healthy and productive, and would only pay a small fee ($500,000) to buy him out if he's not. The Pirates can therefore keep a productive Doumit in Pittsburgh for two more seasons if they so choose, and the only real risk they're assuming is the risk that he falls apart in the next three seasons and turns out not to be worth the $11.5 million he's guaranteed.

My sense is that, if Doumit isn't traded first (and this deal does not make him harder to trade unless his production dips dramatically in the next two years or so), the Pirates are unlikely to exercise the option for 2012 and 2013. In those two seasons, Doumit will be 31 and 32, and I wouldn't bet on a catcher with his injury history being healthy and effective by then. But if his injury struggles are mostly behind him and 2008 was the start of a Jason Varitek-style late peak, he'll be valuable indeed, and I'm glad the Pirates will have the option of enjoying that peak.

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