Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Fat Man Has Sung; Now We Wait for the Player to Be Named Later

According to SFGate , Bengie Molina has been traded by the Giants to the Texas Rangers. The deal will be completed Thursday and immediately makes Buster Posey the full-time catcher for the G-Men.

The Giants lose the slowest man in baseball and gain Chris Ray, middle reliever who used to strike people out, and the dreaded PTBNL (player to be named later). Chris Ray is kind of decent and adds depth to the middle relief crew. He has been OK for the Rangers so far this season but there are some troubling stats sitting underneath his solid 3.41 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. First is his K:BB ratio. It's 1. Yup, Ray has walked as many hitters as he has struck out; that would be 16 each in 31.2 IP. This represents a career-worst mark in this stat.

Ray after issuing a bases-loaded walk. Why did I pick this picture? No reason really.

How to spin this? Well, he must be getting his outs on the ground, right? Not really. According to FanGraphs, he is allowing more fly balls (51.5% of all batted balls) than at any point in his career.  Of course, one can point to his 7.7% HR/FB, a new career-low. But then, you are faced with the fact that he has been extremely lucky, especially when you consider his home park has been the launching pad in Arlington. His BABIP stands at .214, insanely low. Ray has been the beneficiary of a lot of at 'em balls. I have to wonder if that kind of luck will continue with the Giants' geriatric outfielders patrolling the sward at AT&T Park.

This leaves us with the PTBNL. The names dropped at SFGate were lefties Chris Davis and Jarrod Saltalamacchia.  The former is power-hitting first baseman, with a love of the long ball and the strikeout. He was sent down after just 48 ABs earlier this season and has been hitting at AAA ever since. He plays excellent defense at first but has been a K-fiend at every level of play. On the plus side, he has hit for average and power at every level of play. Well, unless you count the majors. But whose quibbling? This year at Triple-A Davis is hitting .327 with six HRs and 30 RBI in 44 games. Good on the average but the power seems to have been lost somewhere between Arlington and Oklahoma City. He is striking out less but Davis' value comes from his tremendous power. This cyclopean talent clubbed 36 home runs in 129 games between Double- and Triple-A in 2007. He has shown promise at the big league level as well, hitting 17 dongs in 80 games in 2008 when he was first called up. That kind of pop is something the Giants could use.

My vote for PTBNL. Despite the K:BB, WAR and ISO.

The other option is Mr. Saltalamacchia, owner of the longest last name in baseball history. Unfortunately, he is also the owner of an arm that has struggled to throw the ball 60 feet and six inches to the pitchers' mound. Really. Check this report from the Oklahoma City RedHawks web site:

RedHawks catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia would be back in the major leagues if he didn't have a problem throwing the ball - not to an infielder, but back to his pitcher.

In Salty's last game, Tuesday night at AT&T Bricktown Ballpark, 12 of his throws back to the pitcher landed either short of the mound or in center field. He had five errant throws in the first inning alone.

"He's just got to keep playing until he gets it right," RedHawks manager Bobby Jones said. "I don't know what else to do. It's a shame. It's definitely what's keeping him here. He's blocking the ball well and swinging the bat well. He's just got to figure it out. It's a shame."

To be fair, reports are that Salty has cleared up these issues but nonetheless has not returned to the big league club. While the Giants could use more depth at catcher, they have a greater need at first base. Posey and Eli Whiteside should cover every available game at catcher, leaving precious little for Saltalamacchia to do in San Francisco. The seamstresses in the Giants employ will be glad if the team passes on him. Davis is a hell of a lot easier on the hands than Saltalamacchia.

It takes nimble, child-like fingers to stitch the name just right.

As for Bengie, he moves to hitter's haven and should see a definite improvement in his offensive numbers. Fantasy owners in AL-Only leagues should be all over him. Wait, I am one of those. Be right back. Molina will be missed for his expert handling of a young pitching staff. Also, until this season he has been the most reliable bat in a terrible Giants lineup. He has looked slower both at and behind the plate this season but I like his chances of rebounding for a solid half-season with the explosive Rangers. On the plus side for the Giants, they should immediately cut down on their double-plays and increase the number of infield hits. Last, I am not sure how happy Molina was about being Giant this season. This is based on nothing more than speculation but Bengie was the man for the past three seasons. He was the best hitter and a seasoned vet other players looked up to. This season he was a rental, holding Buster Posey's spot until the rookie was ready. I don't think he liked being that position. On the Rangers he will again be the man behind the plate and should see a lot more of his fly balls head over the wall. Then he can do what he does best: jog slowly around the bases.

Molina was just fast enough on this day in Milwaukee:

Posey was drafted to be the everyday starting catcher and now that day has come. I know Tim Lincecum will miss Bengie behind the dish but I am betting Posey wins him over quickly. Molina wasn't blocking balls in the dirt like he used to and Posey's athleticism will make a difference here. This deal will be a positive for the Giants if  they land a left-handed bat who can help a struggling offense. I am hoping, for all his flaws, that bat is Chris Davis.


  1. I thought I read that Chris Davis and Salty - though first discussed - would NOT be part of the deal. If they could manage to get Chris Davis along with Ray, that would actually be something.

    I must give Sabean credit here, at least he DID something...even if it was to simply admit that he never should have re-signed Molina in the first place.

  2. Those two were the names mentioned by Shea in his blog:

  3. Dug a little deeper and the writer who broke the trade, Jon Morosi, tweeted that his source said neither Salty nor Davis would be involved. Fact is Giants want a lefty bat and both these minor leaguers fit the bill. We will see. Here's the tweet: