Thursday, December 08, 2005

Angels Don't Offer Molina Arbitration

In a somewhat surprising move, the Angels did not offer salary arbitration to free-agent catcher Bengie Molina. Many (including me) thought this was a no-brainer given the Angels would only have to commit to Molina for one more year, giving prospect Jeff Mathis another year to develop. Worse for Molina, the market for veteran catchers is drying up quickly with both the Mets and Diamondbacks filling their needs via trade this week. That means Molina may have to take a job sharing the catching duties or as a backup. He could catch-on with a club like the Twins who have health problems with their rookie phenom Joe Mauer. But he will have to compete with Mike Piazza who is also looking to catch-on somewhere as a part-time catcher/DH. The Angels have been mentioned as a team that might be interested in Piazza and the dispatch of Molina would help clear the way for a deal there.

According to the LA Times, the company line is that the Angels wanted to create an opportunity for Mathis on the big club. While Molina is an excellent receiver, the Halo pitching staff is not exactly difficult to catch (with the noted exception of K-Rod). But the Angels are taking a bit of an offensive gamble at the catching position if Mathis does not win the starting job. Jose Molina as the primary catcher is not a pretty thought from a run-production perspective.

"We were leaning toward arbitration with Bengie, but with the emergence of Mathis and right behind him, Mike Napoli, I didn't want to throw up a roadblock that would impede them," General Manager Bill Stoneman said. "It wasn't an easy decision, because Bengie has been a great trooper, a good player, for a number of years."
The Angels can not offer Molina a contract until May 1st which means his days with the Halos are likely over.

The Angels continue to clean-out catchers as they attempt to trade Josh Paul to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. After the phantom strikeout in the ALCS when Paul tossed the ball towards the mound and ran off the field, it probably is best to remove Paul and all memories of that play. It also is easy to say goodbye to a very mediocre player.

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