Molina Light,a Possible Backstop Libation for the 2012 Rays

When I first heard we were possibly getting a member of the famed Molina trifecta of catching. Instantly my mind was a-flutter with who of the trio of Molina’s had been caught in the Rays net. I knew instantly it could not be Yadier. For the youngest Molina was probably still basking in the underdog afterglow after securing the improbable 2011 World Series Championship.

My mind quickly shifted gears 180 degrees wondering if my old baseball friend Bengie was eager to help his old Halos Bench Coach and current Rays Manager Joe Maddon strengthen up his pitching staff and young catchers. I was thrust back into our own Rays Republic reality when I heard Bengie is loving his time away from the game watching his kids grow up, and possibly hinting of a return of his own to the diamond, but not as a player.

 With the two bookend Molinas accounted for as non-factors for the 2012 Rays roster, it left only the middle brother and a bit of a mid-line offensive minded Molina. Neither of the potential choice cuts of the Molina clan where heading to Tampa Bay. Instead we might be getting the robust yet refined Molina Light.

Granted Jose Benjamin Molina Matta has his own set of World Series rings the first garnered in 2002 when he backed up older bro Bengie with the Halos, then again in 2009 as a member of the New York Yankees. This middle-of-the-road Molina had a bit of history in his baseball resume after becoming the last MLB player to hit a Home Run in the original Yankee Stadium.

After that game the baseball savvy Molina took to quoting famous Bronx icon Babe Ruth who in his last public speech at the original Yankee Stadium said, “I was glad to have hit the first home run in this park. God knows who will hit the last”. Now that is paying the ultimate homage to a man who’s offensive swagger was said to have built the original Yankee Stadium.

 I am sorry if the “Molina Light” might seem a bit harsh, but it is unfortunately realistic. If you had a choice of any of the trio, even the retired Bengie would get your honest vote over the former Toronto Blue Jay backstop. Sure Jose is the tallest of the Molina catching foundation standing a robust 6 foot 2 inches, but his career total of 24 Home Runs, 430 hits and a lifetime .241 average begs you to consider him “light” with the lumber.

In his favor is his uncanny ability to get the most out of his pitchers, especially young staffs. I was impressed over the past 2 MLB seasons when Molina was handed a merry-go-round of pitchers to become familiar with, some with experience, both most still just raw talents. He sculpted that young staff, refined a few of their weaknesses and used their advantages night in and night out to steal critical wins from opponents. I shudder to think what that staff would of accomplished had there not been the injuries and setbacks.

With the Rays possibly having maybe 2-3 starting pitchers coming into Spring Training 2012 with less than 2 full MLB seasons of work, maybe the 1 year deal for Molina with a club option kicker might end up being more than the Rays usual modus operandi of a solid veteran presence to act as a mentor to work with and teach the Rays young crew of backstops, plus add another layer of fine tuned seasoning to guys like young pitchers Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore, Alex Torres and Alex Cobb.

The Rays would be however experiencing Deja Vu by bringing in another veteran catcher who has a skilled and solid defensive style, which firmly fits the Rays mold, but Molina has seen his offensive numbers decline since 2010, and that gives me a huge reason for concern. Still signing Molina for a 1-year deal with a club option for 2013 could end up being both financially feasible and a future insurance policy in the event John Jaso or Jose Lobaton can not grow and escalate to take this Rays pitching staff to a higher level.

Jose Molina might not be my favorite Molina, but I respect his past present and future work ethic and his undying courage to sit another season behind the plate and get battered night after night by bats, balls and thundering base runners. In that regard he is a solid choice, and along with his skill at slicing and dicing the pitching game plan into a lean, mean strikeout machine, he could be a welcome and solid addition for 2012.

In retrospect, the Rays are a better team with any Molina behind the plate be it Bengie, Yadier or Jose. Who knows, if Dioner Navarro can have a breakout season and be an All-Star, maybe the Rays are just the place for another Molina brother to make his mark.

4 Comments

I have high confidence that Molina will help out the team in 2012. His ability to throwout baserunners and is knowledge of the game will be a boost to the defense. He also has the ability to hit for a higher average than all the current Rays catchers. The only concern I have with Jose is his issues with blocking balls in the dirt, which is statically 5th worst in the MLB. With a bunch of new pitchers coming up from the minors next year, I feel this could be important for their development. It will be interesting to see how Molina fits with the Rays next year.
The Rays Rant- http://yossif.mlblogs.com/

Yossif,
I am glad you brought that fact up. Currently the Rays have John Jaso who when his bat is hot beams confidence and his abilities behind the plate follow close behind. In 2011 JJ took a bit of a slide backwards, but not for lack of trying. Still, JJ’s biggest drawback is his own “dirt action” or giving up Passed Balls.
Bullpen and Catching Coach Bobby Ramos is great at skills and drills to help combat this set of issues, but his health in 2011 kind of left him dealing with his personal issues and Jaso felt the void big time. During the Spring of 2012 there could be 5 catchers fighting for the 2 slots on the Rays roster. Molina might have the edge on 1 of them, then you got Jose LObaton, Jaso, Robinson Chirinos, Nevin Ashley and a new name, the offensive new-comer Stephen Vogt.
This should produce the biggest competition this Spring, plus possibly reveal a star in the making, or a player who might be better served somewhere else.

The Jays got the most out of Jose last year (he hit .281) by using him sparingly. I think as a back up catcher he’s actually one of the best in the league. If he were playing 5 or 6 times a week, I think those numbers would take a hit.

http://bluejaysnest.mlblogs.com/

Blue Jays Nest,
Molina did find a magical moment with the bat in Toronto for 2011. That is cause for excitement, but he is still a shadow of his other 2 brothers defensively. Still, his ability to work a pitching staff and also be a clubhouse guy is a positive for this addition. Of course at this moment in time Molina is not a Ray, but it might be a small stumbling point, or a possible Rays awakening…..TBD.

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