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Jose Molina Rumors
In his Sunday column, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times writes that “the key to [the Rays'] offseason flexibility might be trades” before noting that Tampa would be eager to deal either Grant Balfour or Jose Molina if they opportunity presented itself. He also speculates that names such as Matt Joyce, Sean Rodriguez and Jeremy Hellickson are names to watch, and he wonders whether or not Desmond Jennings and even Wil Myers will be discussed in trades this winter as well.
Here’s more from Topkin’s piece and the rest of the AL East…
- While trading Yunel Escobar to the A’s or letting him go on waivers might’ve been popular with Rays fans (and even some in the clubhouse, Topkin notes), the team held onto him for multiple reasons. Firstly, the Rays are confident that Escobar will rebound from a tough 2014 season next year. They also don’t trust Ben Zobrist at shortstop next year in his age-34 season and aren’t sold on Nick Franklin‘s defense at short. Nor are they certain whether or not Hak-Ju Lee and Tim Beckham will be ready in 2015. Beyond that, the Rays don’t feel they can replace Escobar for as cheap little as he stands to earn in 2015 ($5MM).
- Kelly Johnson, who went to the Orioles as the key to a four-player deal Saturday night, is now headed to his fifth straight AL East team. He’s happy to be headed to a likely playoff team in Baltimore, he tells the Providence Journal’s Tim Britton. “It’s crazy,” says Johnson. “Obviously I’ll be familiar with the surroundings. … I’m obviously excited to be in a situation where you’re on a first-place team.”
- In a second piece, Britton also looked at the struggles of Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley, and he spoke with Red Sox assistant GM Mike Hazen about whether or not the hardships experienced by that duo has led the Sox to reevaluate their evaluation process for young players. Hazen speaks at length about the league-wide decline of offense, the increase in defensive shifts and the progress made in scouting reports, noting that it’s tougher now for young players to break through.
Cuban catcher Lednier Ricardo recently held a workout in the Dominican Republic, as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweeted recently. MLBTR has learned additional details on the 25-year-old, who has been cleared to sign as a free agent and will not be subject to international spending limits. About a dozen teams were represented at the showcase, including the Yankees, Cardinals, Blue Jays, Mariners, Astros, Royals, Rangers, Tigers, Athletics, and Reds. Public information is scarce on Ricardo, who has seen limited time with the Cuban national team and has maintained an OPS in the .730 range in recent years in Serie Nacional action. The backstop will look to impress scouts enough to earn a significant bonus to come stateside.
Here’s the latest out of the American League:
- Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe provides a few notes on the Red Sox, via Twitter, that could impact the team’s trade deadline plans. The club prefers to keep Koji Uehara for the 2015 campaign, he says, though of course the closer is slated to hit the open market. Meanwhile, the team would prefer to keep Xander Bogaerts at third for the present, but could nevertheless be open to dealing Stephen Drew if he can show some kind of turnaround at the plate.
- The Royals are “looking hard” at options to bolster their pen, Cafardo further reports (Twitter link). Though the Kansas City pen ranks third in the game in accumulated fWAR, much of that has come from top options Greg Holland, Wade Davis, and Kelvin Herrera. And the relief corps rates just 19th in cumulative ERA (3.68). Among the Royals’ remaining active relievers, Aaron Crow and Francisley Bueno have outperformed their peripherals, Louis Coleman has struggled by any measure, and Scott Downs was knocked around yesterday after three quality outings to start his tenure with his second club of the season.
- The Rays will listen on catcher Jose Molina, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reports on Twitter. Olney wonders whether the Cardinals would consider looking into the older brother of the injured Yadier Molina. It is worth bearing in mind, of course, the elder Molina is under contract for next season at $2.75MM.
- With few intriguing bats available, the Mariners should go all in by pursuing Rays ace David Price, argues Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Seattle should be able to fit Price’s salary this year and next, says Rosenthal, and the surely steep price in terms of prospects would be worth it to a club that could seize an opportunity to make a postseason run.
The Nationals had interest in Jose Molina as the club's backup catcher in 2014, MLB.com's Bill Ladson reports, but Molina instead chose to re-sign with Tampa Bay. This leaves Chris Snyder (signed to a minor league deal two weeks ago) and prospects Jhonatan Solano and Sandy Leon as the current candidates to spell Wilson Ramos behind the plate. Ladson discusses the Nats' middle infield options, a possible lineup and other topics as part of his reader mailbag piece. Here are some more Nationals-related items….
- James Wagner and Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post have a Nationals mailbag piece of their own, which includes Kilgore's opinion that the Nats won't pursue Masahiro Tanaka "in any meaningful way" since he'll command too high a price. That said, the Nats have scouted Tanaka and like him; the baseball operations department feels Tanaka is "pretty close in quality to Yu Darvish" except they project Tanaka as a dominant ground-ball pitcher instead of a big strikeout arm.
- Rather than spend on Tanaka, the Nationals will use their remaining funds on extensions for Ian Desmond and Jordan Zimmermann. Kilgore opines that the Nats could sign Tanaka and then use Zimmermann as trade bait (as they may explore trading him next winter anyway if he can't be extended), but he firmly says that this scenario is just his speculation and it's "not happening" in real life.
- Based on past indications by ownership, the Nationals' payroll will never rise much higher than $140MM in the near future. The Lerners could eventually change course and elevate the payroll to nearer the luxury tax level, Kilgore writes, if they believed such spending would generate more revenue.
- The Nationals could bolster their roster with five lower-tier free agents, Chase Hughes of CSNWashington.com writes. Jeff Baker and John Buck would add veteran depth for the bench, Mike Gonzalez or Oliver Perez would fit as more left-handed depth in the bullpen and Fernando Rodney could be a surprise closer signing if the Nats are still unsatisfied with the back end of their bullpen.
DECEMBER 2, 10:14pm: The Rays have officially announced the deal, tweets Topkin.
NOVEMBER 24, 4:29pm: Topkin tweets the contract details: $1.75MM in 2014 and $2.75MM in 2015. Topkin adds Molina is set to take a physical either Monday and Tuesday and, once that is complete, the deal is expected to become official.
Molina is expected to be Jose Lobaton's backup after starting a career-high 87 games behind the plate in 2013, reports Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Topkin adds the middle Molina brother had received interest from other clubs, but liked the Rays' competitive situation, playing for manager Joe Maddon, and living in the Tampa Bay area, not far from his Puerto Rico home. The Rays had been linked as a possible trade partner for the Reds' Ryan Hanigan.
Molina batted .233./.290/.304 in a career-best 313 plate appearance (99 games) for the Rays last season, his lowest offensive output in the past four years. However, the 38-year-old is regarded as one of the game's best defensive catchers (although his lack of mobility resulted in 33 wild pitches and eight passed balls in 2013) and is an expert in the art of pitch-framing. Molina has also thrown out 38% of opposing base-stealers throughout his career.
Steve Adams contributed to this post.
The Cardinals' four-year, $53MM deal with Jhonny Peralta has an interesting twist: it's frontloaded. The shortstop will earn $15.5MM in 2014, $15MM in '15, $12.5MM in '16, and $10MM in '17, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Here's tonight's look around the majors..
- Peralta's deal raises the uncomfortable issue of PED usage paying off, writes Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports. Diamondbacks relief pitcher and team union representative Brad Ziegler took his dissatisfaction with the deal to Twitter, but he's far from the only player who has an issue with players linked to PEDs getting major paydays.
- Heyman looks at the market for Jarrod Saltalamacchia and wonders if the Blue Jays, Twins, or Rockies could steal him away from the Red Sox. The Rangers look like another possibility to some, but one person connected with the club says a return for Salty isn't too likely at the moment. Texas has looked at free agent catchers, but they've also suggested that Geovany Soto will be their fulltime backstop.
- The Rays' are still waiting on results of Jose Molina's physical and therefore won't have an announcement on his signing until early next week, tweets Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Molina is expected to ink a two-year, $4.5MM pact to stay with Tampa Bay.
- The opportunity to win attracted Skip Schumaker to the Reds, writes MLB.com's Mark Sheldon. Schumaker said his decision came down to the Reds and one other unspecified playoff-caliber team.
- In today's inbox, MLB.com's Corey Brock touches on the possibility of star third baseman Chase Headley being moved and other matters surrounding the Padres.
Teams have asked the Blue Jays about Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, but Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos told Jim Bowden of SiriusXM (via Twitter) that he hasn't "entertained the idea" of trading either player. Bautista hit .259/.358/.498 with 28 homers in 2013 and saw his season end early after being shut down due to a hip issue. Encarnacion had a solid campaign, posting a slash line of .272/.370/.534 with 36 home runs. Bautista is owed $14MM annually through 2015 with a club option for the same amount in 2016 while Encarnacion will make $19MM through '15 with a $10MM club option for '16. Here's more out of the AL East…
- The Yankees are refusing to punt and are living for today with their Brian McCann signing, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. McCann's lefty pull power should provide a huge boost in 2014 (and probably '15 and '16), but beyond that is a mystery.
- Within the same article, Sherman writes that the Yankees are now more upbeat about the chances of Hiroki Kuroda returning. There remains a chance that the veteran pitcher decides to play in Japan next season.
- The McCann agreement allows the Yankees to take their time developing Gary Sanchez, their top prospect per MLB.com, knowing McCann will eventually move to first base or they can use him as a trade chip, tweets the New York Daily News' Mark Feinsand.
- Feinsand, in a second tweet, sees the backup job coming down to Austin Romine and Francisco Cervelli with Chris Stewart being non-tendered. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz estimates the arbitration eligible Cervelli and Stewart will each earn $1MM.
- Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com wonders how McCann's new $85MM deal with the Yankees affects the Orioles' Matt Wieters. Wieters’ offensive numbers aren’t as good, but he is is two years younger than McCann and Scott Boras will certainly dig up data to show that Wieters is deserving of more money.
- Meanwhile, Alex Speier of WEEI.com looks at what McCann's deal might mean for Red Sox free agent catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Salty is now the best avaialble free agent catcher and his market should now start to take shape.
- A combination of familiarity and affordability led to Jose Molina returning to the Rays, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Financial terms of the yet-to-be-completed deal are not yet known, but Topkin writes that it's unlikely that he received more than the $3.3MM total he made the last two seasons.
- The Orioles won't re-sign Tsuyoshi Wada, according to MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko. The O's declined their club option on Wada earlier this month; but, at the time, the door was said to be open for a minor league deal in Baltimore.
- The Orioles need to be creative in wringing the most value out of Jim Johnson, writes the Baltimore Sun's Eduardo A. Encina. Encina dangles the idea of moving Johnson, who MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects to receive $10.8MM in arbitration, into the rotation, but that begs the questions of whether starting is a good fit for the 30-year-old right-hander and who will step in as closer.
Edward Creech contributed to this post.
4:44pm: The two sides are indeed negotiating a two-year deal, tweets Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The contract could be finalized next week.
The 38-year-old Molina batted .233./.290/.304 in 99 games for the Rays last season — the lowest offensive output of the past four years for Molina. However, he's regarded as one of the game's best defensive catchers and is an expert in the art of pitch-framing. He's also caught 38 percent of opposing base-stealers throughout his career.
The Rays currently figure to deploy Jose Lobaton as their everyday backstop. Other free agent options such as Brian McCann, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and perhaps even A.J. Pierzynski may be well beyond the Rays' price range. They've been linked to Ryan Hanigan as well, who would represent an affordable, defense-first alternative for GM Andrew Friedman, should things with Molina fall through.
Both Molina ($1.8MM) and Shields ($10.25MM) were expected to have their options picked up. The 35-year-old Rodney pitched to a 0.60 ERA with 48 saves this year, so his $2.5MM option was a no-brainer. Scott, 34, hit .229/.285/.439 with 14 homers and will receive a $1MM buyout rather than a $6MM salary.
The Rays are expected to exercise their $1.8MM option on catcher Jose Molina for 2013, according to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times (via Twitter). The move effectively costs the Rays $1.5MM as Molina’s buyout was worth $300K.
At the very least, Molina provides Tampa Bay with a capable backup as they work with a limited budget this winter. The backstop hit .223/.286/.355 with eight homers in 274 plate appearances last year but was worked exceptionally well with the club’s pitchers.
The Rays officially announced the signing of catcher Jose Molina today to a one-year deal with a club option. The $1.8MM deal pays $1.5MM for Molina's 2012 salary and includes a club option at the same price for '13 with a $300K buyout. Molina jumps to the top of the Rays' depth chart, as yesterday they traded catcher John Jaso to the Mariners for reliever Josh Lueke and a player to be named later or cash considerations.
With the Rays, the 36-year-old Molina appears to have a shot at topping his season-bests of 297 plate appearances and 737 innings caught, both set in 2008 with the Yankees. Molina is known for his defense (especially in framing pitches), but in 2011 he had one of his best offensive years in a limited 191 plate appearance sample. Molina is "one of the best defensive catchers in baseball over the past decade," in the words of Rays executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. The Blue Jays will receive a supplemental draft pick for their loss. Molina is represented by ACES.