Thursday, November 29, 2007


For the Love of Bengie

With the winter meetings kicking into gear next week, it'll be interesting to see what moves, if any, Brian Sabean makes. With the Angels and Dodgers looking like clear favorites to land Miguel Cabrera, and the Devil Rays already making their long-awaited young-hitting-for-young-pitching trade, it seems likely that the Giants will need to look elsewhere to upgrade the offense. At least, we can only hope Sabean is going into these meetings hell-bent on picking up hitters, because if not, the Giants are stuck trying to turn dogshit into diamonds with a bunch of C-level prospects.

Catcher Bengie Molina seems to be the Giant most likely (or at least most-rumored) to be peddled, most likely to a contender looking for a decent bat from behind the plate. The Mets were the sexy pick to land Molina, and even though they picked up Johnny Estrada from the Brewers, they still might non-tender him and go looking for somebody better. The Mets have a number of solid prospects (Keith Law nearly blew a gasket in a chat today while defending the Mets' farm system), and might be willing to send one the Giants' way in order to get a catcher with possible 20-homer pop.

In my mind, Sabean should be trying to trade Molina like crazy, but sadly Bengie's value is probably being overhyped by a lot of fellow Giants fans. Molina had a fine year in '07, and should continue to hit for decent power, but he never walks, which means his offensive value tends to be very batting average-dependent. If he loses an ounce of bat speed, his OBP will plummet to even more unacceptable levels and he'll just be another abysmal Giants hitter. Also, he just logged a career high in games played, never a good sign for a 32-year-old catcher, and it's fair to question how much those knees have left in them. Enough to keep him productive throughout the remainder of his deal? The Giants can only hope.

Of course, you don't need me to tell you any of this. You already know that hitters with zero plate discipline tend to fall apart in a hurry, and that catchers often don't last too far into their 30's, at least not without a position change. Herein lies the problem: just about every other GM in the major leagues knows this too. The bad part about living in the post-Moneyball information age is that everybody is getting smarter in regards to how they value players. Sure, there will always be the Krivdas and Littlefields of the world, but the number of patsies who will overpay for veteran know-how is dwindling by the second.

The "win-now" mindset might still have enough pull to persuade some contender to give up a juicy bit of talent for Molina, but I have my doubts. Maybe I'm underrating Bengie's value, but if I'm a rival owner and my GM trades a player with any kind of potential for a player of Molina's caliber, I'd be livid.

This shouldn't take away from the larger point, though. If there's a good offer for Molina, do it. An Elizier Alfonzo/Guillermo Rodriguez offense/defense platoon wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, and it would free up money to use to upgrade other positions. Plus, the odds on Bengie's bat going into the tank, as I discussed above, are all too high. The Bengie rumors seem to have died down a bit, but keep a close watch next week as the meetings go on.

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