Although the Rays have neither denied nor confirmed that they have signed journeyman catcher Jose Molina to a one-year deal with a team option for 2013, the expected deal is a good move and makes sense as the team desperately needs to improve on its defense when it comes to the catcher position.
The potential signing was first reported by Kevin Richardson via Twitter on November 17 and according to Joe Smith of the St. Pete Times, Molina was in St. Petersburg on Tuesday (Nov. 22) to take a physical.
Despite his age (36-years-old) and the fact that he can’t run or put up big offensive numbers (this past season was his best), Molina would bring something greatly missing to the table – that being an excellent defensive catcher.
In his career which spans 12 years, Molina has thrown out 40% of attempted base stealers – and for those fans with a good memory, it was Molina who in 2010 went a perfect 4-for-4 in throwing out Rays runners (it was the first time ever that the Rays were thrown out four times in one game).
Not only does Molina have a gun for an arm, Mike Fast of Baseball Prospectus writes that no catcher in baseball has done at better job of framing pitches over the past five years. Since 2007, Fast writes that Molina has saved his team 73 runs.
Fast also states that from 2006-2010 when Dioner Navarro was the Rays’ backstop, he cost the Rays 19 runs. Kelly Shoppach (2007-2011) managed to save just 3 runs for the teams he played on, and in his two years with the Rays saved none.
Molina’s experience, especially with opposing players from the American League and with AL East teams, he would be a key fit for the Rays specifically when it comes to the Rays’ young rotation. As well, he would be an excellent teacher to the very young and somewhat inexperienced catchers in John Jaso, Jose Lobaton and Robinson Chirinos.
Molina certainly isn’t the big offensive addition that Andrew Friedman spoke of to fill some of the team’s needs, but it is when it comes to defense and let’s face it, in as much as Joe Maddon liked what he saw and received from Kelly Shoppach (in regards calling a game, working with pitchers) Molina easily trumps that.
From a financial standpoint, Molina’s potential salary fits the Rays more than Shoppach’s did or would if he [Shoppach] were to re-sign. For the Blue Jays last season, Molina’s salary was $1.2 million and would likely range between $1.5-$2 million in 2012.
To substantiate why adding Molina would be in the Rays best interest is that among the remaining free agent catchers available, Molina brings the most to the table in an area where an upgrade defensively is needed.
The initial free agent market had only 17 catchers – all above 30-years-old. Of this group, six have already signed contracts for 2012 ranging from $800,000 to $4 million… and all were just for one-year.
Of the remaining available, few if any at all fit the Rays needs: offense, defense and financially. Those in particular are Ramon Hernandez (36-years-old), Salary: $3 million, 2011) who could still catch everyday and is seeking a multi-year deal and Jose Molina’s younger brother Yadier Molina (29-years-old, Salary: $7 million 2011) – way too costly for the Rays.
Attempting to go via a trade for a catcher could wind up costing the Rays too much – not only in way of salary, but in the amount of players that would need to be included in the deal.
For more info: Tampa Bay Rays, Jose Molina, Cot’s Baseball Contracts
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