Bengie Molina Hits The Market

2010 is not exactly a banner year for free agent catchers. Bengie Molina will enter the hot stove league as the only type A catcher available*, according to Cot’s Contracts 2010 free agents list. Bengie Molina has been a standby in the league for years, but he will be 35 for most of the 2010 season.

*Assuming the Red Sox pick up Victor Martinez‘s $7M 2010 option

Bengie’s career has been a model of consistency. Since 2003, he’s put up 14.8 WAR, for an average of 2.1 WAR per season, and has always stayed within the 1.0 to 3.0 WAR range. Keep in mind, however, that our catcher WAR on FanGraphs doesn’t take defense into account. We can be relatively certain that he is not the gold glover of 2002 and 2003, though. His CS% has dropped from 40%+ from 1999-2003 to 32% for his career now. Also, the elder Molina doesn’t excel on the bases, and WAR doesn’t include non-SB baserunning, depressing his value even more.

Given Molina’s age, production, and previous contract (6M in 2009), it’s hard to imagine the Giants offering Molina arbitration, especially with Buster Posey almost ready. As such, he likely won’t have the dreaded type-A tag that doomed Orlando Hudson to a contract with a base salary of only $3.38 million.

So what can he expect? With his wOBA dropping below .310 for the first time since 2002, it’s fair to say 2009 was a down season. His BABIP of .273 was only 8 points below his career average. Still, a catcher with a wOBA of .308 is still valuable on the free agent market. However, teams will be taking into account the fact that Molina is aging and his defensive value will only drop as the years go on.

Jason Varitek, with a similar 2008 to Molina’s 2009, received a 5 million dollar contract. Molina might be able to expect something similar, but he doesn’t have the “captain” moniker to aid him. Still, he does hit for power – his .177 ISO ranked 3rd in the majors this year. If he can avoid injuries and provide near-average defense, his power will make him a 1.0+ win player, with a 4 million dollar contract or more on a one-year deal. Plenty of teams will have needs at catcher. The question is which one wants Bengie.

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28 Responses to “Bengie Molina Hits The Market”

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  1. Matt B. says:

    Ha, how much has the “Captain” moniker given old V-Tek over the years? That “C” is almost bigger than his head.

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  2. Joe R says:

    Wait, Molina is a type A?

    That has to factor into his contract talks, too, because who the hell wants to lose a 1st round draft pick on Bengie Molina and his south of .300 OBP?

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  3. Gabriel says:

    Bengie Molina is an OK player. The article points in the direction of the key questions:
    What team is so hopeless at catcher that an OK player will make much of a difference?
    What team is good enough that it’d think that adding a guy like Bengie Molina could be the difference and worth delaying the introduction of a younger catcher?

    Actually, I think a team like Boston might make sense, in that he could replace Varitek and play regularly, letting Martinez DH some.

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  4. B says:

    Honestly, I think you’re overestimating the rationality of all parties involved here. The Giants might be looking for a C for a year instead of Posey (doesn’t make sense to me either, but between how they treated Posey at the end of the year and the fact that they’ve publicly said they don’t know if he’s ready to play next year….yeah). That might involve arbitration for Bengie, or maybe even just straight resigning him, I don’t know. Also, Bengie is kind of a sensitive little Sally, he gets his feelings hurt if he doesn’t think a team wants him…so I could see a situation where he actually turns down arbitration…

    The point is I have no clue what’s going to happen, but I can basically see any scenario you can possibly imagine happening with these parties involved, so I wouldn’t rule anything out at this point.

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    • Jack Moore says:

      Well, I’m sort of operating under the assumption that Molina will accept arbitration if it’s offered. It’s hard for me to imagine any team but the Giants signing him if he’s type A, but I guess I might overrate certain front offices with that claim.

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    • Thinking that Posey is not ready is not irrational. Look at Weiters, he wasn’t ready when he came up and didn’t do well until the last month of the season, and he’s considered the better hitter.

      Reading through Sabean’s season’s end press conference transcripts, he said that Posey could prove to be the starter with a good performance in spring. That suggests to me that the Giants are not going to go the Bengie Molina route if he really expects a raise and look into getting someone like the Orioles did with Zaun, a cheap free agent who will keep the seat warm until Posey is ready.

      There was also talk that the Giants will talk with Molina. I think it will be like Sabean’s talk with Gary Sheffield when he asked Sheff if he was willing to accept $10M for a season, he will be laughed at by the free agent and that will be that. I think for a cheap sign, Sabean would be willing to sign Molina and transition to Posey when Buster is ready, but Molina has been a very proud and poutful person the time he has been with the Giants, so I expect him to hold out for his multi-year contract with a raise until Jan/Feb when he’ll sign for cheap somewhere.

      Molina in an interview said that he would be OK with a situation where he starts in 2010 and transitions over to the new catcher in 2011. That scenario, to me, fits more Texas than the Giants: Posey is poised to join the team sometime in 2010, while Texas is trying to win and had to go get Pudge when their young catchers failed. I can see them going with a vet in 2010 and let their young catchers back up and be the DH to get regular AB (assuming they hit OK enough).

      Not that the Giants aren’t trying to win, but they didn’t go out and get Pudge while Molina was struggling or a RF while Winn struggled all season. And with arbitration and other needs, signing a high priced catcher doesn’t really fit into the budget. I think they are going to try to sign Penny, and if not him, go the Randy Johnson 2009 route and sign a vet to take the #5 spot. After that, I think they will look to get someone to play LF perhaps (Nady or Ankiel?) or one of the corner infield positions (Chone Figgins?).

      If I had to bet on who, I think the Giants will shoot for Chone Figgins. They don’t have a leadoff hitter capable prospect with speed. Some Giants fans are in love with Lewis but I don’t think the Giants want him as a leadoff guy, that is why they tried to move him to #3, and he had some rude comments on management near the end of the season and Sabean has never liked open rebellion like that; I think that is what buried Frandsen by the end of the season. Others love Velez or Velez/Torres in a platoon, but Velez is not really that good a hitter, they loved his initial flash of hitting, but he was back to his normal soon afterward, only nobody noticed because they remember his hot streak.

      Meanwhile, Posey should eventually be one of the middle guys, and presumably paired with Sandoval and I think they will try Rowand #5 again, and hope that Schierholtz or Bowker or Ishikawa or Garko could eventually take that spot away. So while they need another power hitter, they could decide to try to go internal and see if anybody can take the bull by the horn, because there is some potential there, while there is nobody really like that for leadoff, Lewis is basically 30 and Velez is basically not that good a hitter or base-stealer.

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      • Kevin S. says:

        Look at Weiters, he wasn’t ready when he came up and didn’t do well until the last month of the season,

        The idea that Wieters wasn’t ready is only relative to the insane level of expectations heaped upon him. I dislike the use of monthly splits, but if we ignore May and it’s 11 PA sample, he OPSed .691 in June, which would have put him twentieth among the thirty catchers with at least 300 PAs this year. After one month. He only improved from their. The notion that he “wasn’t ready” is absolutely retarded. The only thing he wasn’t ready for was to take his seat on Mt. Olympus.

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      • B says:

        Yeah well, you enjoy Sabean’s kool-aid, the rest of us…not so much.

        I do agree with you that the Giants FO for some reason hates Fred Lewis. It doesn’t make any sense, because Fred Lewis is actually a better hitter than the average leadoff hitter, and our 2nd best offensive player, but yeah, for some reason he’s getting screwed over by the Giants. Lewis isn’t even 29 yet, by the way, so I think calling him 30 is intentionally misleading (since prime age is thought of as 25-29 in baseball, and because we fixate on whole numbers, 30 tends to stick out as a guy being past his prime, which Lewis is not).

        God I hope the Giants aren’t the team that overpays for Figgins. It would be such a classic Sabean move. It would actually make our offense worse (though our D would improve, netting us a modest improvement nowhere not even close to being worth the money).

        As Kevin pointed out, Wieters was very ready for the league. It was just his silly ridiculous projections that make you think otherwise. He was a league average hitter as a rookie C, he accumulated 1.9 WAR in only 354 PA’s. Posey will be better than Molina was last year, so he at least has that going for him. I’m not totally against the idea of patience (I think Bumgarner needs at least 1, and probably at least 2, more years in the minors before he’s ready, for instance)…but if that’s our goal, why the hell was Posey accumulating service time in Sep to not play?

        Honestly, if we want to transition to Posey partway through the year (which is smart, delay his service clock, though that takes longer because we wanted him to sit on the bench in Sep), I’d throw Sandoval behind the plate to start the year before moving him back to corner infield. No point in wasting money on a crappy C that doesn’t improve the one thing we need most – offense.

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  5. FYI, Molina is angling for a multi-year contract AND a raise.

    I was hoping the Giants might offer him arbitration in order to get some picks for him, but I think you make the good point that he’s probably not going to get the attention that would get him signed to such a contract, meaning he would accept arbitration and cost the Giants big money when Posey could be ready.

    Too bad teams can’t decline Type A status and accept Type B to get the free pick.

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  6. Choo says:

    I can see the Mets expressing interest in Molina. Omir Santos didn’t lock down a starting job going into 2010 but he proved he’s worth a longer look and Molina could play the veteran mentor role – he and Santos are fellow Puerto Ricans who live about 10 miles apart.

    I wouldn’t count out the Astros either, and you never know what the Royals might do, but the market for Bengie isn’t ideal at the moment.

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  7. Danya says:

    If you can’t imagine the Giants offering arbitration to a 35-year-old sub-.300 OBP guy who is rapidly declining defensively and also happens to be the slowest baserunner in the universe (but is a Gritty Veteran Gamer), while letting the game’s premier catching prospect rot in the minors for another year, then you obviously are not familiar with the genius that is Brian Sabean. To be honest I would not be shocked even if he offered Molina two years.

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    • Joe R says:

      Posey went 2 for 17 in the majors.

      With such a huge, telling sample, it’s obvious the kid ain’t ready and spending 12 mil on a man with a rapidly declining skill set is the path to take.

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    • And you are blinded by your hatred of Sabean.

      If Sabean was like that, Cain, Sanchez, and Lincecum would have been spending even more time in the minors. Instead, they all were brought up early, in prospect time, Cain when he was still 20, Sanchez before he was really ready but was not going to learn more in the minors, and Lincecum, after not that many games in the minors. Sandoval and Bowker also flew up to the majors in 2008, with Sandoval obviously sticking. Runzler also flew up to the majors in 2009. Sabean has been aggressive when the prospects are really good.

      The thing is, look at Weiters as an example. He’s considered a better hitting prospect than Posey and did simiarly in the minors to Posey as well. He was drafted one year ahead of Posey. He finally made the majors and struggled for months before finally clicking in September.

      What makes Posey so special that he won’t do something similar if not worse, following that time table? Just because he’s the premier catching prospect doesn’t mean that he’s going to succeed the moment he is brought up. If he was started in September like many Giants fans wanted, he would have been put in a situation where he most likely would fail and do terribly, while also letting down the team in the heart of the pennant race. Prospects are human too, you don’t want to be putting them into situations where they most likely can’t succeed in.

      And to turn it around, Homer Bailey was the game’s premier pitching prospect not too long ago, and he’s still struggling to do well in the majors. There is no guarantee that they will succeed.

      For a closer example, Will Clark was a premier prospect but people forget that his first season was pretty humdrum offensively, other than his hitting a homer on his first MLB pitch off of Nolan Ryan. There is an adjustment period.

      Personally, I think the Giants should bite the bullet and let Posey be the starter in 2010 and sign a vet backup who can be adequate if Posey struggles.

      But as I noted, they said he could win the job in spring training (also, they took him off the AFL roster, they would not have done that if they felt that they still needed to evaluate him against top competition, and still they said that he could win the starting job), so I expect a situation like Baltimore where they sign a cheap starter but the moment Posey is ready, whether spring training or mid-season, he’s coming up.

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      • Choo says:

        “And to turn it around, Homer Bailey was the game’s premier pitching prospect not too long ago, and he’s still struggling to do well in the majors. There is no guarantee that they will succeed.”

        Freaking Bailey. The raw stuff that allowed him to succeed in high school and the minors has also prevented him from learning how to accept instruction, adopt a work ethic and prepare like a major leaguer. Like Nuke LaLoosh pre-Crash Davis, Bailey still has a lot of growing up to do. At least LaLoosh was sort of loveable. The opposite is true of Bailey, and that is putting it gently.

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      • B says:

        I don’t think Sanchez helps your case in the least bit. The way the Giants mismanaged Sanchez was appalling and almost derailed his career. I also don’t see how Bowker “flew up” to the majors. He spent 2004-2006 moving up in the minors, got a full season at AA in 2007, and spent some time in 2008 in AAA and MLB (because the Giants were desperate and had no plan for their players), and even then he was given PT because he started out with a bunch of HR’s before inevitably becoming the player everyone knew he was.

        Really, all these examples are more proof not a single decisionmaker in the Giants organization understands sample size or has any real long term plan. I can just see spring training coming next season, some nobody shit prospect gets hot (Velez, anyone?) and is handed a job they aren’t prepared for, and more imporantly, aren’t talented enough for, while someone like Posey is deemed unready because he doesn’t light the world on fire in 50 PA’s.

        Also not sure what bringing Homer Bailey up was supposed to accomplish, the kid was pretty clearly not ready for the bigs (see 7.9 K/9 and 4.4 BB/9 in 2007, 7.8 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9 in 2008, all that in the minors)…

        If we start Posey, is he going to tear it up? I don’t think anyone’s suggesting it’s a given – most of us even understand big time prospects, even ones who succeed in the minors, don’t always make it in the Majors. I think it’s not unrealistic to expect Posey to outperform Molina, though (because that’s not saying much).

        More importantly, though, is just that I would like to see a plan in place. To this point the Giants have shown they don’t have any idea what they’re doing with their prospects, all their decisions are made on the latest “how do I feel today” whim. If we wanted to start Posey’s arbitration clock….why would we bring him up and not play him? If we don’t think he’s ready, why bring him up at all? Let him go play for Team USA or something so he gets more PT. Do we want to start Posey next year or not? Do we want to delay his arb clock enough and then start him? If so, how is that consistent with what we did in Sep? I just fear at some point, the answers to these questions will depend 100% on a judgment of a very small sample size…

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      • Teej says:

        Comparing hitters to pitchers is a little misleading. Pitching prospects bust all the time. Everyday players who hit and play defense like Wieters and Posey are far more dependable.

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      • Danya says:

        You make good points about Lincecum/Cain/Sanchez OGC, but I would suggest that Sabean treats position players completely differently. Sabean’s been around for 13 seasons now and the Giants have produced two solid position players: Aurilia and Sandoval. (If you wanted to stretch I guess you could throw Feliz in there too.) But I’ve seen enough Giants positional prospects fizzle that I’m really starting to consider that the team’s handling of them is playing a role. If a Giants prospect doesn’t mash immediately, they are deemed “not ready” in perpetuity. If Sandoval hadn’t ripped off an eight-game hitting streak beginning with his second start, I seriously believe he wouldn’t have tasted the majors until this past September. Everyone agrees that prospects need an adjustment period–it’s Sabean who doesn’t acknowledge this, not his detractors. I’m not saying Posey should have started over Molina in the thick of the pennant race. But for Posey to continue to sit on Molina’s days off in favor of Eli “.607 OPS” Whiteside was ludicrous. Posey can only prove himself if he gets a shot, but Sabean/Bochy will only give him a shot once he’s proven himself. And so continues the vicious cycle of the Giants’ management of positional prospects.

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      • Kevin S. says:

        Dude, continuing to say that Wieters wasn’t ready isn’t going to make it any more true. His first month in, he was hitting like a below-average but absolutely useful catcher. The next month, he rocked an OPS that was above average for any position, let alone catcher. Yes, his performance this year is weighted upward by his strong finish, but it seems a little silly to assume that him waiting another month in the minors means he would have just started hitting like he did in July. The guy had an adjustment period, one that easily could have occurred in June or September or next April. Wieters was fine this year. If Posey has a rough one-month adjustment then starts to hit fine over the remaining five, the Giants win.

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  8. 080808 says:

    If Red Sox signs him, I don’t think so, though.

    bases-loaded with Ortiz, Lowell, and Kotchman, Molina on the plate..

    this is possibly best scenario, a routine ground ball can be turned into triple play by mediocre infielders.

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    • Choo says:

      A single infielder walking at a brisk pace around the diamond could turn that scenario into an unassisted triple play. He wouldn’t even need arms.

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  9. Jim says:

    While he may not have the capital-C- Captain bestowed on him by the media like Varitek… Bengie Molina has more of less bestowed that “C” on himself. He signed on in 2006 when there was a bit of a leadership vacuum and he basically thinks he’s Johnny Bench reincarnated. He perceives any mention of him slowing down, slumping, etc. into some huge ordeal. The manner in which he carries himself would make you think the Hall of Fame is on the verge of waiving the 5 year waiting period for him. If you want a delusional catcher going into his late 30’s who provides an OBP that is good for a pitcher, then Bengie Molina is your guy.

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  10. ElJimador says:

    It’s hard to know which way the wind blows on Molina in Giants land. At his post season press conference with Bochy, Sabean said that Molina had “an incredible year” and that his numbers proved it. But he also acknolwedged (obliquely at the presser but then more directly in an email from the FO to Giants fans) that the Giants needed to improve their team OBP and that would be one of the priorities of the offseason. Which one of these 2 entirely contradictory statements he’s sincere about is anyone’s guess. I hope it’s the latter but I’ve learned not to project my rationality on to Giants management. I mean, it’s not like they’ve done anything to this point to suggest that they know what OBP even stands for, really. So I hardly discount the notion they will be dumb enough to re-sign him, even (gulp) to a 2 year deal, plugging him right back into the cleanup spot. Because that’s the Giants and that’s how they roll.

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  11. SF_Bern says:

    My take is this. The article does a good job of illustrating what/who Molina is; a slow, low OBP, average defensive catcher with very good isolated power with consistent level of production in his 30’s. He’s clearly miscast as a cleanup hitter, but that’s not his fault, that is an issue for the Giants. To make matters worse the Giants self admittedly over-worked Molina, in the first 5 months of the season Molina started 103 of 131 games, with 19 DNP’s, 5 of those DNP’s occurred during the last 10 days of August when he was nursing an injury.

    Given the Giants offensive woes especially their lack of power, wouldn’t the Giant have a ton of incentive to retain a player who offers power/ave defense at a hard to fill position? Further more by offering Molina arbitration don’t they just crush his free agent market value?

    I see a win/semi-win scenario for the Giants should they offer him arbitration. He leaves and they get the picks, he stays and they get him on a 1yr albeit slightly pricey non guaranteed deal. Posey is not ready to be a full time starter, he needs to get bigger/stronger, reviews of him in Sept & the AFL are that he’s hit a wall. Breaking him into the Majors as a semi regular sharing time with Molina is probably a win win for both players and the club. The X factor will be whether or not Molina finds that scenario to his liking and will he desire a 2nd yr on the contract which he will be in all likelihood a backup and cause him to decline arbitration.

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    • B says:

      I see people use this a lot, but I think it’s a misleading point to make.

      “He’s clearly miscast as a cleanup hitter, but that’s not his fault, that is an issue for the Giants.”

      My problem with Molina batting cleanup is simply that it shows that Sabean/Bochy have no idea what qualities in a hitter actually lead to runs. It has nothing to do with Molina, really. My problem that does have to do with Molina is that, quite simply, he’s a very bad hitter. He’s not just bad for a cleanup hitter – he’s a bad hitter for a starter, period. He had the 2nd worst OBP in all of baseball (anyone surprised Betancourt was worst?). 25 catchers, the worst hitting position in baseball, with 200+ PA’s had higher wOBA’s than Molina. Quite simply he was one of the worst offensive players that started regularly in all of baseball.

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