Rangers Add Nothing in Molina

On Wednesday night, the Texas Rangers and San Francisco Giants announced the swap of Chris Ray and a player to be named later for Bengie Molina. Molina’s purpose in Texas will be to improve the catching situation, which has been brutal thanks to the incompetence of Matt Treanor and the disappointing although underrated season from Max Ramirez.

The only problem for the Rangers is that Molina is not actually an upgrade. Rangers catchers have a season wOBA of .296, mostly thanks to Treanor’s .308 wOBA and Taylor Teagarden‘s 33 PAs of .139 wOBA. Max Ramirez has actually had an above average hitting season despite a .234 batting average. Thanks to his 15.0% BB rate, he’s posted a .336 wOBA this season. Bengie Molina, on the other hand, posted a .284 wOBA in the NL due to a complete lack of power, a penchant for fly balls, and possibly the slowest pair of legs in the majors.

Of course, half-season stats can only tell us so much, and it’s possible that we’re missing something about Ramirez, Treanor, and Molina by limiting ourselves to their performance so far. Treanor is likely playing over his head, as bad as that sounds. In 1,000 major league PAs, Treanor’s wOBA is .289, and his ZiPS (R) projection of .298 still leaves a bit to be desired. He does appear to be an above average catcher, according to our own Matt Klaassen’s catcher defense rankings. In those same rankings, Ramirez has been poor behind the plate, but at the plate he projects as a slightly better .306 wOBA for the rest of the season.

That’s certainly a bleak outlook on the catching front for Texas. The addition of Molina does nothing to change that, though. Molina’s .306 projected wOBA is identical to Ramirez’s and doesn’t account for the move to the better league. At best, the movement to the AL could be cancelled out by the move to the hitter’s park in Arlington, but there’s also a good chance that Molina’s poor performance will only be exacerbated by the tougher pitchers in the American League.

Molina’s defense and baserunning also leave much to be desired. Bengie ranks 82nd of 90 catchers in the aforementioned defensive rankings, at -2.5 runs already this season. His EQBRR, Baseball Prospectus’s baserunning metric, has him as an average baserunner this season. However, he was -4.5 runs last season and -7.1 two seasons ago; the chances that Molina repeats his average performance for the rest of the season are slim. Ramirez is a poor baserunner, as well, but Treanor has been above average in his last two recorded seasons, 2010 and 2008. Due to Molina’s deficiencies behind the plate and on the bases, he provides little, if anything, over Matt Treanor and Max Ramirez.

At least the Rangers didn’t give anything up to get Molina. Chris Ray is a below replacement level reliever, projected for a 4.60 FIP, and will likely perform worse, as he’s struck out 16 and walked 16 batters in 31.2 innings. However, this move likely precludes any improvement at the position. The Rangers also took on just under $2 million in salary when they probably could get similar production by recalling Jarrod Saltalamacchia from AAA. This move is just a headscratcher from Jon Daniels and the Rangers – it seems as if they’re acquiring a name more than anything else.

For the Giants, the return of Chris Ray isn’t what this trade is about. This trade is about finally opening a spot behind the plate for young Buster Posey. Posey hasn’t done much in his first 98 MLB plate appearances, but he’s been very promising in AAA and his .330 projected wOBA would make him a 3+ WAR player with upside. The Giants shouldn’t have re-signed Molina in the first place, but this is a good move by Brian Sabean to unload Molina and his remaining contract now that it’s absolutely clear that he is not a useful player. The Buster Posey era can now officially begin in San Francisco.




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51 Responses to “Rangers Add Nothing in Molina”

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  1. Realist says:

    Giants are paying the rest of Molina’s salary

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  2. OremLK says:

    It’s possible Molina will perform better in Rangers Ballpark, and really, even if the Rangers added nothing, they gave up nothing as well: SF is paying the rest of Molina’s salary.

    Also, Molina is still on track to be a Type A free agent, due to the idiocy of the Elias Rankings system. So with that in mind, I’d call this a win for Texas.

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    • chuckb says:

      only if the Rangers dare to offer Bengie arbitration. Would you?

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      • OremLK says:

        If there’s any chance at all of him rejecting (and I think there is), then yes. I’d do a heck of a lot for a chance at a pair of first round picks.

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      • Aaron B. says:

        OremLK, only one team (the Mets) besides the Giants was serious with Bengie, and they turned him down to go for Rod Barajas. I think Molina’s well aware that there’s really no market for him right now.

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      • OremLK says:

        According to trade rumors, you mean, Aaron? Those things that are… rumors?

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      • BX says:

        I’d cheer if Bengie accepted arb from the Rangers.

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      • jaybow says:

        No dude, there was next to no interest in Molina over the offseason, which is exactly why the Giants didn’t offer him arb.

        There is no way you are offering him arb and getting draft picks, unless he can’t even make it to the field or multiple limbs fall off.

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  3. Zack says:

    “The Rangers also took on just under $2 million in salary when they probably could get similar production by recalling Jarrod Saltalamacchia from AAA.”

    Except Saltalamacchia can’t throw the ball back to the pitcher without it bouncing or ending up in the outfield.

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    • WY says:

      I was going to say the same thing. He has the yips.

      In general, it’s safe to say that the Rangers organization knows more about its minor league players than Jack Moore, which is what makes this sort of suggestion so laughable.

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  4. Josh S. says:

    How about the fact that Chris Ray sucks and he will no longer be in the Ranger’s pen?

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  5. Shaggychild says:

    Who wouldn’t be honored to have a Molina brother play for their team? This is truly a blessing.

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  6. MWG says:

    This looks like a good move by Sabean. For approximately $2-3 million dollars Sabean has extended control of Buster Posey for an additional year and received a valuable reliever. I’m impressed with the return on a player that went so long without a team this winter. Anyone could have had him this winter, it would be nice to see Pittsburgh and other cellar dwellers use these moves to rebuild. The market for older players can be used for a competitive advantage due to pay inequity. A side note Sabean should have signed Damon instead of DeRosa this winter.

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  7. blunderstruck says:

    When you’re as cash strapped as the Rangers, you cannot throw away 2million on a spare like molina. You need to save every penny and truly acquire somone who will improve the team and help for the playoffs, if they get there.

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  8. fightnirish220 says:

    The Rangers are getting cash (The difference between Molina and Ray’s contracts) plus they don’t have 1 catcher on the roster who has started over 70 games in a season. Good not great trade by the Rangers.

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  9. Joe R says:

    People people people, this is SABEAN we are talking about.

    He likely got drugged by a Giants fan and in his state of semi-consciousness, traded Molina. Then he woke up today and said “OH MY GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE?! THE KID’S NOT READY!”

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    • WY says:

      Who knows if he’s ready or not? He’s not exactly tearing it up with the bat right now.

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      • Joe R says:

        It’s still better than anything Molina is giving.
        So even if Posey is a future Japan all-star, it’s a plus from the AAA production of Molina.

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  10. PJ says:

    Now Molina’s big fat self can block another rookie (Max Ramirez). Rangers really shot themselves in the foot here.

    And sorry for a guy slugging .332 and a .072 ISO at 35 years old isn’t going to suddenly start hitting DINGERZ just because he changed his ballpark.

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  11. kevmill21 says:

    i know these things are written based on stats compiled from different people, but matt treanor has been a miracle for the rangers regardless of if he can keep playing well. max ramirez may put up saber friendly offensive numbers but a one line mention of his B-R-U-T-A-L defense doesn’t do that side of the argument justice.

    getting ramirez out of the rotation until he can learn to catch is a good thing. im not defending molina, he really isn’t much (which i know is the point of this article) but a catcher needed to be had.

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  12. philkid3 says:

    I don’t quite agree with this statement: “the incompetence of Matt Treanor and the disappointing although underrated season from Max Ramirez.”

    Ramirez and Treanor have combined for a 2.16 WAR player over 695 PAs. That’s not terrific, but it’s not a problem, either.

    Treanor’s .308 wOBA comes despite a career-low .254 BABIP, despite a typical LD%. His wOBAr is much higher. So he’s probably unlucky to be merely passable, I wouldn’t call him incompetent. Yeah, that HR/FB rate may be due for some regression towards his career, but so far Treanor’s been solid, and he’s been unlucky to be only that.

    Ramirez, meanwhile, I don’t think has been disappointing to many Rangers fans this year. After last season and his struggles in the Majors in 2008, there was serious concern that he’d never hit at the MLB level. This year, he has. It’s been extremely encouraging to see Max handle the bigs.

    Finally, while Molina doesn’t bring readily-apparent improvement to the offense, the Rangers are probably making the move based on bringing someone to handle the pitchers better. There’s been talk in the past that the organization doesn’t see Max as a catcher. This isn’t anything we currently quantify with stats, and that means it makes pretty poor support in an argument. I don’t know how much, if any, it adds, but that doesn’t mean it’s nothing, and the Rangers have more information than we do as fans. They could absolutely be dead wrong on it making a difference, but we probably won’t know anytime soon. Regardless, it makes it hard — especially when the loss in offense is fairly small — to call this a good or bad trade because we just don’t really know how much of a difference the pitcher handling is going to make.

    From what we can tell, it’s meh at best, yes. But I seriously doubt the trade is being made based on the things we’re able to tell.

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    • eldingo says:

      Can we measure pitch handling? If we can’t we should assume that it is constant… we can’t magically imbue some players with good pitch handling and others with bad

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  13. Billy says:

    There is no hope for the Rangers. First, Vlad’s power is gone. Now, they add NOTHING to their catching situation.

    They’re doomed.

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  14. Ben says:

    Has anyone thought of the fact that Molina has a ton more experience and knowlege about the position than Ramirez and can help out the pitching staff by just knowing how to pitch to batters? If both players are roughly even on stats I think that fact makes the trade a landslide in favor of Molina.

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  15. Josh says:

    Billy- that is the stupidest thing I have ever heard.Vlad’s power is gone??? 2 HR last night, 1 HR the night before. In the top 5 or 10 in all the power categories in the AL. You are a baseball ditz Billy.

    Jack- You are a baseball ditz as well. The Rangers have added a great locker room guy with playoff experience who will hit .250 or better the rest of the way. That’s all the Rangers need right now at catcher. Treanor or Ramirez are no guarantee to hit above .200 the rest of the way. Molina also knows so much more about handling a staff than Ramirez (or Treanor for that matter). The bottom 3 in the ranger lineup needed to be solidified not perfected. The top 6 are so perfect, the bottom 3 just need to be respectable. BTW Salty hasn’t been even hitting at AAA over the last few weeks, if he had, it’s a different story.

    Very good trade for the rangers. Ogando replaces Chris Ray as the 7th inning option beside Darren Oliver. Ogando a step up at this point even though young and inexperienced.

    Rangers – best record in baseball.
    Rangers – Win the west.
    Rangers – Win a playoff series.
    Rangers – Win the pennant IF they add a top class starter.

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    • MetsFan says:

      Citing experience, locker room presence, handling a staff and batting average? Is this the first post you’ve ever read?

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      • Choo says:

        Psst! Hey Josh! This is your cue to bust out the z-scores for that new weighted Mystique formula you’ve been slaving over. Drop some knowledge on these bozos!!!

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    • Billy says:

      Josh,

      I thought I was laying it on pretty thick there. I’ll try to be more obvious in my sarcasm next time.

      The author wrote an article, back in May, about Vlad losing his power. Try to keep up!

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    • Joe R says:

      Josh: “What’s a z-score?”

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  16. Joe R says:

    Jeff Fletcher at AOL Fanhouse tried to use the ole “Buster Posey can’t call a game” argument against this Molina trade.

    Eli Whiteside’s 2009 catcher ERA: 3.01
    Bengine Molina’s 2009 catcher ERA: 3.75

    Almost every Lincecum start was caught by Molina.

    Some gamecalling, eh?

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    • PJ says:

      Fanhouse is a joke. They wrote an entire article about how Pedro Alvarez was demoted back to AAA but that the “Pirates just haven’t announced it yet.” Turns out he was in the starting lineup the next day and the dude that wrote said it was a “joke.”

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      • Joe R says:

        I wonder what it’s like to be so bad at one’s job, yet still earn such a high standard of living, as I assume they all earn at least $50K.

        I’d like to think Lincecum/Cain/Zito/Sanchez have thrown a baseball well enough in their lifetime to know what the hell to throw in a 2-2 count.

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  17. GrouchySmurf73 says:

    Guess this trade’s a wash but check out some tape of Max Ramirez and you’ll see why it was worth a gamble. Dude couldn’t throw out my peg-legged grandma and Paris Hilton gets her mit on more balls than he does. He can work a walk, though and he’s being pitched to, in the 8th spot, like he’s freakin’ Barry Bonds. I’ll be patient with this move. In my opinion, unfair assesment of Treanor. Isn’t this a career year, so far? He won a game in Florida w/a triple. He’s not Pudge but, dang, incompetent? Not like he’s Teagarden swinging at gnats. Guy gives a major league at-bat.

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    • Joe R says:

      Truth.
      It’s hard for a catcher to turn their defensive score + positional adjustment into a negative, but Ramirez is currently doing that. He’s a backup 1B waiting to happen.

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  18. OremLK says:

    The Rangers gave up Michael Main for Molina.

    I take back what I said. What the heck? Are they insane?

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  19. Herman says:

    You figure a math major would be able to discern what might constitute a viable sample size. Bengie’s a streaky player, you only have to go as far as last year’s splits to see that he tore it up in April, batted .200 in May, and bounced up and down throughout the year. His first three months are not that inconsistent with what he did last year as far as trends go. His power numbers are down and concerning, but it is also probably worth noting that he has already surpassed last year’s full-year walk total and is posting an OBP about 30 ticks higher than last year’s.

    The earlier posts about Molina handling pitchers well are also particularly significant, especially when dealing with a young pitching staff like that of the Rangers. I think there’s little doubt that Bengie’s offensive upside is far greater than Treanor’s. Even as poorly as Molina is playing he still has numbers that are comparable to Treanor’s in many aspects. Treanor also strikes out about 20% of the time, Bengie is half that over the course of his career. K’s are never productive outs.

    There are so many blatant and relevant omissions in this article that it really only serves to discredit its author. Most of them have been mentioned already(Salty’s yips, the Giants taking on the salary differential, Ramirez’s fielding shortcomings, sample sizes, and the fact that Bengie has been pissed about the Giants pushing Posey down his throat all year probably hasn’t helped his morale), and I am sure there are more oversights that I failed to mention. Baseball goes beyond formulas that you can derive studying math at the University of Wisconsin, maybe read a couple of local articles for some real insight before posting this mess of an analysis.

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  20. timmy says:

    So the same author called the Branyan trade a win, because the M’s gave up two non-prospects and a last place team may improve by 1, possibly 2 wins. A division leader gives up nothing, and gets a backup catcher with experience.

    “They’re acquiring a name more than anything else”

    I guess if Jack Z was in Texas…we’d have to re-evaluate his trade?

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  21. Cidron says:

    On the plus side, Benjie brings stability to the C position. Sure, it may not be stellar, but, day in, day out, its the same thing. Whereas, the other options had ups and downs. There was no stability at all. Also, Benji can mentor the other catchers a bit, while he is there. He does know a few things that can be passed along (aside from where the nearest Denny’s is). Who knows if/when Salty (not even gonna try the spellin of the name) gets over his throwing issues. If he does, then Molina is gone, replaced by Salty (or one of the others, hopefully more knowledgable and wiser from Benji). Hey, its a “work in progress” at that position in Texas. Not necessarily pretty. But, Benji’s arrival at least buys the younger C’s time.

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  22. walt526 says:

    It could be argued that Molina for Ray with the Giants covering Molina’s salary and the Rangers covering Ray’s salary made sense for both teams: Giants free up a spot for Posey and get a fungible veteran reliever while the Rangers get some stability at catcher as they make a run in the AL West. It’s debatable whether or not Molina actually represents an upgrade (for all the reasons included in the original blog post), but giving up Ray is pretty inoffensive.

    But the inclusion of Main makes this a clear win for the Giants and a remarkably stupid trade for the Rangers. Even if the Rangers didn’t have much faith in Main’s ability to continue developing, he was a pretty valuable trading chit. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if Sabean flipped Main in a few weeks for some outfield help.

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  23. Franco says:

    Didn’t the Rangers have 3 stud catching prospects 2 years ago? Now B Molina is an upgrade? Man, prospects are a funny thing.

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  24. CircleChange11 says:

    I was thinking the same thing of TEX C prospects. Then again JR Towles was a catching prospect in HOU around the same time.

    Seems like C is one position where teams still value a “veteran” much more that sabermaticians.

    Perhaps that’s an indication that we, as of yet, still don’t have a really good way of quantifying what a C influences when he’s behind the plate. In this regard, I’m not specifically referring to ‘calling pitches’, but ‘receiving skills’. I mention this because I attending a “catching clinic” not so long ago and was just amazed at all the different skills involved in catching different types of pitching in varying locations. These guys are like the offensive linemen of MLB. I do know that having a poor catcher is very frustrating from a managing standpoint.

    It might be interesting to read TEX pitchers’ comments of Molina in the upcoming weeks and see what they report.

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  25. CircleChange11 says:

    I’m not saying we should … Just trying to figure out why quite a few teams value “veteran catchers” more than the numbers guys do. Not just that (because we know the cliche phrases that are used), but wondering how it can be quantified (or if). My guess is if there was some way to do it presently, it would be done.

    Perhaps with more and more pitch data, we’ll eventually see something … Or not.

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  26. Larry says:

    Though I’m probably guessing from what I’ve read, seen and assumed, but catching involves nuances such calling pitches, where you position your mitt during an at-bat, blocking pitches, calming guys down on the mound, positioning fielders and flashing signs that an opposing team isn’t likely to figure out.

    Having a veteran gives you peace of mind he knows what he is doing back there, even if he doesn’t seem an attractive in other ways i.e. has weak bat and/or cannot run worth a lick.

    Often the catcher is the quarterback of the field and if catcher is some young, nearly ‘know nothing’ guy, then it is assumed he’ll have too much on his plate to deal with as well as lack the bravado to take charge of something like a pitching staff [particularly ones with veterans].

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  27. Brian J. says:

    Gosh… how embarrassing is this now?

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  28. Bo says:

    Nice bump. Guess Texas got a little something out of Molina after all.

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