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Diaz signing may make Doumit expendable

Diaz signing may make Doumit expendable

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Signing Matt Diaz may answer one offseason question in Pittsburgh. But it's leading to speculation on another front.

By inking Diaz to a two-year deal that is expected to become official in the next few days, Pittsburgh has landed its much-needed right-handed bat. Diaz will get significant playing time in right, which, of course, is going to cut into playing time for a number of other players who have been named as potential right-field options.

Among them is Ryan Doumit.

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One industry source said that the Pirates are trying hard to deal Doumit and have made it known to other general managers that the club is willing to eat some of his salary. Doumit is due to make $5.1 million in 2011. There are club options for '12 ($7.25 million) and '13 ($8.25 million) built into his contract, too.

There's little question that Doumit has become more expendable with the addition of Diaz. Just two days ago, GM Neal Huntington named Doumit the team's projected starting right fielder and backup catcher. Huntington circled back around to that comment on Wednesday, though, noting that the club has always viewed Doumit's best fit as a left-handed-hitting option to platoon in right. That would be his role with Diaz.

Making Doumit available in a trade would hold potential risks and rewards.

On one hand, retaining Doumit could give manager Clint Hurdle more pieces to mix and match at first base and right field based on matchups. Diaz, Garrett Jones and Doumit would be interchangeable pieces at the two positions, with Steve Pearce and John Bowker also looming as internal options.

Doumit would also serve as the primary backup to starting catcher Chris Snyder. Having Doumit would give Pittsburgh proper insurance in case Snyder sustained an injury.

Pittsburgh has the financial flexibility to keep Doumit next season, too, so this isn't a situation where the Pirates have to reduce salary. But it does seem a bit expensive for the Bucs to pay their two catchers nearly $11 million next season. That cost isn't so unreasonable when you consider Doumit will get playing time in right.

"As you sit and put it together from scratch, probably not," said Huntington, when asked about the value in paying more than $5 million to a platoon player. "But as you try to tackle what your resources are and what your options are, you try to make the best of it. It's not something that would hinder us in any way."

Still, there might be something to gain by dealing Doumit. While it's unknown how much interest there is in the 29-year-old, the Pirates could free up some payroll by parting ways with the former second-round Draft pick.

Pittsburgh could use that money to pursue additional free agents or it could address areas of need in the trade itself. The more salary the Pirates would be willing to cover in a deal, the more the club could get in return for Doumit. And there's always the possibility of making Doumit part of a bigger package in order to land an impact player.

The Bucs are still seeking to upgrade their pitching while also improving their situation at short. And even with Diaz in hand, Pittsburgh isn't precluded from continuing to scour for another first-base option. Huntington said the club would like a right-handed-hitting first-base option -- Pearce is being considered -- to complement Jones.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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