It has been a quick and decisive fall from grace for Pittsburgh Pirates catcher/outfielder Ryan Doumit. In 2008, Doumit looked like a future superstar. He hit .318/.357/.501, and was worth 3.6 WAR despite poor defense behind home plate. That winter, the Pirates signed Doumit to a three-year contract with club options for 2012-13. The future looked bright.

It has not been so. Doumit struggled to stay healthy in 2009, playing in only 75 games. He has also run into injury problems this season, and the Pirates moved decisively in another direction when they traded for Diamondbacks catcher Chris Snyder in July. Snyder has displaced Doumit to the outfield.

Doumit has played mostly right field since, and has been somewhat better there with the glove. His bat, which faltered badly as he tried to play through pain in 2009, has also come around. Doumit’s power has deserted him somewhat, but but his nine percent walk rate is a career-high.

Unfortunately for Doumit, Snyder is now locked in as the team’s starting backstop—his $5.75-million salary makes him the most expensive prospective 2011 Pirate. Garrett Jones seems ticketed for a return to right field, leaving Doumit as the odd man out.

Not wanting to fork over the $5.2 million they owe Doumit for next season, Pittsburgh long ago began shopping its switch-hitting catcher. Given the lean years Doumit has had since 2008, though, there will be relatively few suitors.

One team that might have interest, however, is the Chicago Cubs. Like Pittsburgh, the Cubs will pursue a rebuilding model in 2011 (whether they like it or not). Unlike Pittsburgh, however, Chicago has money to spend as GM Jim Hendry tries to shore up an offensive squad that lacks depth. Doumit could solve some of that.

As a switch-hitter, Doumit could act as the right-handed half of a right-field platoon with Kosuke Fukudome and/or Tyler Colvin. Because he bats substantially better as a left-handed hitter, he could also help out with occasional spot starts for catcher Geovany Soto against tough right-handed hurlers, and even play some first base if Hendry is unable to acquire an impact player at one of the two corner infield positions.

To build a worthwhile deal for Pittsburgh, Hendry could send one mid-level pitching prospect (a major league-ready arm like Justin Berg would most appeal to the Pirates), and either Jeff Baker or Darwin Barney to the Bucs.

Baker is a likely non-tender candidate this winter, and is therefore expendable to the Cubs. As a Pirate, he could platoon with Jones in right field or back-up both Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez on the infield. Baker rakes against left-handed pitching, and is a better fielder at second and third base than the Pirates’ incumbents.

For Hendry to part with Barney, who would pose a real challenge to former Cub Ronny Cedeno at shortstop in Pittsburgh, the Cubs would need to evaluate their farm system and determine that one of their more advanced infield prospects (Tony Thomas, Marquez Smith, and Josh Vitters are the sensible candidates) are ready for big-league time off the bench. Otherwise, Barney will be needed to play second base, and back-up Starlin Castro at shortstop.

Doumit would not be cheap, given his prospective role on the Cubs, but could make a positive contribution and keep the team in games with impact batting off the bench. Only time will tell whether Hendry has any room in his budget for such an addition, but it would probably benefit the Cubs to look into it.

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