Giants lock up Gold Glover Molina
Catcher inks three-year deal; Lilly, Zito signing unlikely
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Although the Giants are seeking pitching, they beefed up their battery Wednesday by signing veteran free-agent catcher Bengie Molina to a three-year deal worth $16 million.San Francisco general manager Brian Sabean said the club wanted backstop security considering the iffy status of catcher Mike Matheny, who missed half of 2006 with post-concussion symptoms and had final medical tests Wednesday to determine his future. "It was a step forward for us," said Sabean of Molina's signing. "We've talked to Mike and his agent at length, so this is not coming as a surprise. We'll await final word, but we needed a frontline catcher." Sabean noted that while rookie Eliezer Alfonzo did well last year as the starter, he isn't experienced enough to be the No. 1 catcher for 2007. The 32-year-old Molina, a two-time Gold Glover, hit .283 with a career-high 19 homers and 57 RBIs for the Toronto Blue Jays last season, and despite indications his defensive ability has slipped a bit, Sabean called the veteran the best catcher on the free-agent market. "The chance to get somebody with experience and the ability to drive in runs was very attractive," said Sabean, saying all reports on Molina -- offensively and defensively -- were good." The 5-foot-11, 225-pound Molina, oldest of three brothers catching in the Major Leagues -- Jose with the Angels and Yadier with St. Louis -- boasts a .275 lifetime batting average and .994 career fielding percentage, fourth highest among active backstops. The seven-year veteran will receive $4 million in 2007, plus $6 million in 2008 and in 2009. Molina said Wednesday night he's anxious for Spring Training to start and to learn the pitching nuances of the Giants' young hurlers. "I'm excited about being part of that organization -- so big and so tremendously famous," he said. "I'll just do my little part and see what happens." Molina said reports of eroding defensive skills are false, explaining his throwing time to second base (1.8 to 1.9 seconds) is identical to his Gold Glove seasons with the Angels in 2002 and 2003, and that often it was pitchers' lack of holding runners on that lowered his stats.
Rich Draper is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.