Bringing Back Jose Molina

By David Hill

Sep 16, 2013; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays catcher Jose Molina (28) and relief pitcher Jamey Wright (35) congratulate each other after they beat the Texas Rangers at Tropicana Field. Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Texas Rangers 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Being an Official Molina Brother (sorry Gustavo) means several things. First, you are a catcher. You get behind the plate and manage a game; it is simply what you do in baseball. Second, it means that you are solid defensively and are able to shut down the opposing team’s running game. Those abilities, along with his famed skills in the art of pitch framing, are exactly what Jose Molina has to bring to the table. In those aspects, he is a true Molina.

Yet, there is one part of being a Molina brother that Jose has lagged behind in during his career. Unlike his brothers Yadier and Bengie, Jose simply is not much of a hitter. Over his fourteen-year career, Jose has put together a .238/.287/.340 batting line, and has never had more than 283 at bats in his career. He has been, in essence, the prototypical backup catcher – great with the glove, but a non-factor offensively.

However, his value to the Tampa Bay Rays may be greater than what his value would be for any other team. The Rays prize his defensive abilities, particularly his ability to steal the occasional strike. That ability to potentially get an extra out or two for the rotation appears to have been considered more important than anything that Molina could potentially provide on offense, which may explain, in part, why he received 534 at bats over the past two seasons.

Chances are, as Molina is essentially a 38 year old backup, his market may be limited this offseason. With a dearth of catching prospects that appear ready to contribute at the major league level, and his likely minimal salary requirements, the Rays could look to bring Molina back. Having his veteran presence at the ready, on a team that may feature a talented, but very young rotation without a veteran leader should Price be traded, could be worth far more than any possible offense that he would provide.

As the closest catching prospect that may have the potential to turn into a starter is Curt Casali, the Rays could possibly look at trying to find a catcher to pair with Jose Lobaton for another year. The Rays know what they would get with Jose Molina. At the price he is likely to command, Molina could well find himself back in Tampa Bay in 2014.