The San Francisco Giants dealt veteran catcher Bengie Molina to the Texas Rangers Wednesday for 28-year-old reliever Chris Ray and a player to be named later. Molina, 35, was hitting a paltry .257/.312/.332 in 221 plate appearances for a .284 wOBA. Ray is currently sporting a 3.41 ERA for the Rangers in 31.2 innings pitched.
The deal seems to make quite a bit of sense for the Rangers, as they were in the market for a veteran catcher. While Molina’s defense has seemingly degraded by quite a bit, he is well-known for calling a good game and handling a pitching staff well. That said, he provides the Rangers with some stability behind the plate—and unless Texas has included a well-regarded prospect in the deal (which seems highly unlikely), the Rangers didn’t pay a particularly high price for his services. On the surface, the deal is rather insignificant. Molina, despite his reputation for delivering in the clutch, is not a game-changer by any means. Ray has a career tERA of 4.72, which is unspectacular—and he’s performed only moderately well in 2010 despite a shiny 3.41 ERA. The deal is significant, however, for the Giants. The Buster Posey era has now truly begun.
Posey, the Giants’ first round pick of the 2008 draft and one of the top prospects in baseball, has spent the vast majority of his time in the major leagues at first base despite possessing superior defensive skills to the older Molina. General manager Brian Sabean was rather noncommittal in the offseason with his plans for Posey—at one point going so far as saying the Giants were prepared to begin the season with him as the starting catcher.
Everything changed with the re-signing of Molina, however, and Posey was shipped off to Triple-A Fresno. Posey demolished Triple-A pitching and ultimately forced his way into the Giants’ lineup- but rather than allowing him to play his natural position, they shifted him to first base to “ease” him in (and to accommodate for Molina’s presence). This move allows the Giants to move Posey back behind the plate and to move Aubrey Huff back to first base.
If nothing else, the deal is significant for one reason: Sabean actually dealt one of his prized veterans to allow a young prospect to play every day. I can’t remember the last time he’s done that.