Should Giants extend Bengie Molina?

Bengie Molina today said that he is hoping for a two-year extension from the San Francisco Giants.

Of course, the problem is that the Giants have top catching prospect Buster Posey waiting for his shot in the minor leagues.

San Francisco Giants vs Colorado Rockies in Denver

35 years old, Molina is on pace to catch 1,155 innings, which would be a career high. His previous career high of 1,128 1/3 was set last season, meaning he’s been worked quite a bit in his three years donning a Giants uniform.

During that time period, he’s overseen Tim Lincecum emerge as perhaps the game’s most dominant pitcher, Matt Cain solidify his reputation as an elite arm and worked at returning Barry Zito to his former self.

With the Giants, Molina has hit .277/.301/.437 overall while serving most of his time as the club’s cleanup hitter. Yes, that says more about the Giants’ offense than Molina, but the fact remains that the Giants are a wild-card contender with Molina as a cleanup hitter. Not too shabby.

He is actually having his worst season as a Giant, which could give the team pause in offering a two-year extension. After all, his OBP is .277. His .708 OPS would be his worst since 2002, when he had a .596 OPS.

That .708 OPS ranks him seventh of nine catchers who qualify for the batting title — more a testament to Molina’s durability than his excellence.

Molina’s done enough to warrant a two-year pact from a team that needs a catcher, but for the Giants, a one-year deal with a club option for a second makes far more sense.

Posey, 22, currently has a .319/.404/.543 line with Triple-A Fresno in 26 games. His time is near as a full-time starting catcher, but will not make his big-league debut in September, according to general manager Brian Sabean. There’s no question Posey will see some time in the bigs next year, though… but under what circumstances?

There are two ways the Giants could go here.

The first is to pass up on Molina and install Posey as the starting catcher from day one, saving money in the short-term to bring in a bat.

The second would be to sign Molina or another catcher as a placeholder for a year, maybe less, while waiting for Posey.

Given that Molina deserves to start for the foreseeable future, he’s not a good name for the second option. Bengie Molina should not be asked back to the Giants unless they are fully prepared to start him the duration of the 2010 season.

However, Gregg Zaun could fill the role of placeholder. He’s already comfortable doing so, having signed on with the Baltimore Orioles fully aware he was a placeholder for Matt Wieters. He served his use and was moved to Tampa Bay not all that long ago, where he’s making more money for himself as a free agent. His production filling in for an inconsistent Dioner Navarro has been sensational and could very well opt to return to Tampa Bay while the Rays try to figure out which Navarro is the real one: 2008 or the rest of his work.

Sticking with Zaun for a moment, he would allow the Giants to bring Posey along on their own schedule (and of course, the schedule would be financially-related) and still not experience a massive dropoff in terms of defensive and offensive production. Going this route would free up more money for the Giants to address their offense, which continues to be a major liability and likely the reason why they will be playing golf in October.

What do you think? Should the Giants bring back Bengie Molina or should Molina depart for greener pastures?

Here are some teams that could fit for Molina: Cincinnati, Milwaukee, New York Mets, Toronto.

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  1. obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

    The Giants should let Molina go but offer him arbitration in order to get picks should he sign with someone else.  They win either way:

    *  Molina accepts (unlikely), they pay him big but it’s only for one year and they are losing Winn’s, Johnson’s, and Aurilia’s salaries (though it’s Lincecum’s first year in arbitration, so we’ll see how that works out).  Then Posey is clearly set to take over in 2011, plus if Molina should continue to do poorly, they could bring up Posey mid-season and Molina could back him up.

    *  Molina leaves, Giants get two picks, ideally a contender would sign him and the Giants get a pick in the latter half of the first round, but even if not, one supplemental and one second rounder isn’t bad either.

    I thought of Zaun too and for the same reasons. 

    Another option is to sign Jose Molina in the same role.  He’s been one of the best defensive catchers in the majors the last few years, despite playing so few games, according to Fielding Bible 2.  He’ll be cheap, could sign long-term as backup, with the thought that he could teach what he knows to Posey once Posey is ready to make the majors but would get to start in the majors until Posey is ready to come up.

    Molina is so good that multiple Yankee starters have made him their personal catcher.  Since scouts say that Posey has gold glove skills, perhaps playing with and next to one of the best in the business is what he needs to reach that potential for his defense.

    I also thought of Brad Ausmus in this role too.  Too old really, but I like such a move because he’s with the Dodgers and we could pick up good intell on them through him.

  2. Tom said...

    It should be pointed out that Posey is not getting a cup of coffee this September because it is expected he will be playing with Team USA in Europe.

    Another name that may be available in the “elder mentor” category is pudge, who has acknowledged it is time for him to play less.

    And how about recognising Whiteside for making the most of what may be the extent of his career, catching a no-hitter and having a quite awesome catcher’s ERA.

  3. Nick Steiner said...

    Nice peice, Evan; however, I think OPS understates how bad Molina has been this year.  As you know OPS doesn’t give enough weight to OBP, and too much weight to slugging.  Molina’s wOBA this year is .299, which makes him one of the worst hitters in the majors.  Furthermore, ZIPS doesn’t see much improvement in the future (.307 wOBA).  That’s not surprising, given his age, and the wear and tear that he has been through (which you mentioned).  I would argue that you could get much better production from Buster Posey, or a free agent like Greg Zaun, and not have to pay Molina a large contract.

  4. george said...

    Benjie had a terrible May, when he was basically playing every day. He’s showing signs of life this month; every time I look up he’s chugging round third and… scoring. (August .274/.324/.532)

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