Brian Sabean believed way back in October that Molina would leave the city by the bay for a more lucrative offer (he was fairly hotly coveted by the other oft criticized GM by the saber community, Omar Minaya (Mets)). However, Molina was reported to of declined their latest offer in the last 24 hours. I don’t think the details are yet known, but it seems that Molina and the Mets never could quite agree on dollars are probably more so guaranteed years. Molina was asking for somewhere between 2-3 years and the Mets only willing to offer 1-2.
Surprisingly, after I looked at the numbers, he was worth more than I thought in 2008 and 2009. He was paid about $6.5 mil a season but was worth (according to fangraphs) $13.3 mil in 2008 and $8.1 mil in 2009. Of course, players are rarely paid what they are actually worth. For example, Lincecum was worth $33 mil in 2008 and $37 mil in 2009. Some players are worth negative values if they are seen to be below “replacement level.”
There currently are no reliable defensive metrics for catchers (UZR, etc). FanGraphs doesn’t even bother listing defensive value for catchers. So, when compiling his value he is considered equal amongst his peers defensively. This probably isn’t the case. Though he did not win the 2009 AL Gold Glove, most advanced scouts believed Gerald Laird to be the best defensive catcher in the AL. Thus his true value would probably exceed that listed by FanGraphs. In terms of Molina, he no longer is particularly good at throwing out runners (though pitchers like Lincecum don’t do him any favors) and at times looks more than a little lazy. He simply doesn’t block the ball well anymore. Furthermore, any player at a skill position (C, SS, 2B, 3B, CF in this order) gets additional value points for simply playing that position. For C (12.5 runs) and SS (7.5 runs), that extra value is pretty substantial (especially when compared to 1B (-12.5 runs) and DH (-17.5 runs) which both get negative values. And because we have no reliable defensive statistic for the C position, Molina is awarded the full 12.5 runs. For other positions, their total value is either diminished or added to depending on their UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating). For example, Adrian Belte’s total value is his offensive value, the 2.5 runs for playing third base and his UZR. Now, one could argue that were Molina an above average defensive catcher his full value is not properly being displayed by FanGraphs. But I don’t know anyone that would attempt to argue that. On the plus side I will say that he’s been quite durable for the Giants.
All in all, Molina is a perfectly fine hitting catcher, especially because most catchers are pretty terrible hitters. My problems are 1) I believe he is at least a lazy catcher 2) I think Bochy might be tempted to continue to hit him cleanup 3) He’s sensitive and sure to complain and gripe if Posey is brought up and 4) the Giants have Buster Posey. Posey who is going to cost $400 K in 2010. I have in the past and will continue to argue that Posey should be able to at least replace Molina statistically if not exceed his contributions.
I do believe this is a clear misallocation of resources. The Giants clearly have a finite amount of money to upgrade their team and I don’t think $4.5 mil towards a catcher, when the Giants already have a catcher capable of equaling his production or exceeding it at a cost of $400k, is money well spent.
Anyway… the Giants clearly hold different evaluations for players than I (or most the rest of baseball) and so it shouldn’t be seen as a surprise. Plus, I’m sure Bochy and Sabean will argue this gives them a good mentor for Posey. Catcher is quite a tricky position (and one which Bochy himself played) and so they probably do have some point. But I am sure to some degree they are overplaying the importance of having a veteran backstop to mentor Posey and anchor the pitching staff. Furthermore, had Posey been given more of an opportunity to settle in offensively (via pinch hitting) and as a catcher (after the Giants were eliminated) down the stretch in 2009 they’d probably have a much better idea of what they could expect in 2010.
On the upside, they’ve reduced their risk to pretty much 0% at the catcher position which can’t be all horrible with all the question marks (see my previous post) they currently have on the roster. What’s more? Sabean will probably take comfort when the bay area writers uniformly praise the Giants for this move.