(bumped from fanposts. --eric)
The current market for catchers is moving about as fast as Bengie Molina trying to score from third on a medium-deep fly ball. According to the parenthetical reference in this article by SI's John Heyman, "word is" Molina is in search of a three year $20 million deal. The only team known to be connected to Molina in any significant way so far is the Mets. However, according to many sources, including Heyman, the two sides are far apart in negotiations. John Paul Morosi agrees as well, and even goes on to speculate that the entire remaining market for catchers is waiting to see where Molina lands before making their own decisions, specifically mentioning Rod Barajas, Yorvit Torrealba, and Jose Molina.
Mets fans may not agree on everything, but one thing we seem to be uniting over right now is our absolute distaste for Bengie Molina. Checking comments sections around all areas of the interwebz, you find all sorts of anti-Molina Mets chatter, both cogent criticisms of Molina, and hilarious gems, like this one from the comments section of the MLBTradeRumors post linking Morosi's article:
If the mets over pay on YET another over the hill declining veteran, I will kill myself. One year plus a very easy vesting option is all he gets, three years guarenteed when Thole could be our catcher next season, would be insane.
PLEASE DONT GIVE HIM THREE
Im fine with 1yr + option...December 19, 2009 at 03:00 PM
For once, Omir, even we here at Amazin' Avenue feel some sympathy for you (just to be clear, there is no reason to believe this was actually Omir Santos, it was simply a comment from a user with the registered screen name "OmirSantos"). But aside from all the obvious reasons why no one wants to see Bengie in Orange and Blue (except apparently Omar and Bengie), Omir actually makes an interesting point here. On a one year deal, would Molina really be that terrible?
If the catcher market is really moving as slowly as Morosi suggests, and Molina's not lowering his contract demands, this could turn out very similar to a situation we saw played out last year. The player in question was Bobby Abreu, who went into the offseason seeking a three year deal worth as much as $30 million. He held firm to his demands deep into the winter, and wound up settling for a one year, $5 million deal. He went on to put up a .367 wOBA paired with below average defense, making him a 2.5 WAR player, easily the bargain of the offseason.
So what if the same thing that happened to Abreu last year happens to Molina? Granted Molina's not nearly as good a total package as Abreu, his starting price is also $10 million lower. What if Molina holds his demands firm for too long? What happens if the other catchers start panicking around the end of January, and taking the best offer on the table? Is that really a reason to walk away now? Or is it just more reason to hang around the fringe until the market inevitably bottoms out or he signs elsewhere first? If no one takes him, could he actually wind up signing a deal for one year and something in the neighborhood of $3 million? I dare say a deal like that would be more than acceptable, it might even be a bargain.
These are questions that may not be getting asked enough, especially considering how well one year of solid veteran catching could serve the Mets' needs. The biggest problems with Molina are his age and rapidly declining skills, but in the short term, he still projects at least as well as any catcher on the market. With a defensive backup like Henry Blanco, an offensive replacement waiting in the minors in Josh Thole, and possibly another defensive replacement in the minors in Omir Santos, that seems like a nice little saftey-net of depth in the short term. Based on CHONE's R/150, Molina (-15) does in fact project slightly better than Barajas (-19), Torrealba (-21) or Santos (-26), and is also as durable as any option in that group as well, despite his age. His defense may lack, but that's the exact skill you can best leverage using Blanco as a backup.
Looked at this way, playing the market around Molina may actually be a really savvy move for the Mets right now, if executed properly. They have the luxury and the leverage of being the only team seriously involved, as well as having three catchers who are slightly better than replacement level in Santos, Blanco, and Thole. It seems like the thing to do here, rather than completely look away from Molina, might be to keep him in the cross-hairs, but remain super patient, and very willing to let him go somewhere else if another organization is foolish enough to meet his demands. If the Mets wind up empty handed, so be it. None of the other potential upgrades are going to make a huge impact anyway. Even if missing out on Barajas and Torrealba in favor of Thole, Santos, and Blanco leaves you a little worse for the wear, the potential payoff is probably well worth the gamble. If the gambit works out, as far as short term upgrades go, pairing Molina and a hitter like Bay could be fairly effective in re-creating the offensive glory the team experienced prior to 2009 without drastically over-committing to any one or more players. Then there's just the problems of defense and pitching....