Inbox: Is Molina's return a good call?
Beat reporter Chris Haft answers Giants fans' questions
I'm maybe one of the few people out there that thinks signing Bengie Molina was more of a good idea than not. What many don't realize is how well he handled the pride of this team, and that's the pitching staff. Not every catcher is capable of this. Secondly, the Giants are starved for offense, and Molina provides more of it than a lot of other guys. Thirdly, if they really want to help develop Buster Posey, who better to mentor him than Bengie? Then what if Posey isn't ready next year? We're back to the free-agent market. Am I the only one that sees it this way?
-- Edward T., Fremont, Calif.
-- Michael A., Osaka, Japan You can figure out why I juxtaposed these e-mails. They're crafted similarly yet diverge ideologically. They also reflect the fans' mixed feelings toward Molina. Maybe I'm guilty of beat writer's myopia -- a common affliction among press-box denizens -- but I believe Molina's return should benefit the Giants. Few players care more intensely or prepare more thoroughly than he does. His willingness to mentor Posey is another intangible asset. His offensive shortcomings might not appear as glaring now that he's freed from batting cleanup (though he might hit fourth against certain left-handers). Sure, he hacks too much, but that should affect other regulars as much as a pitcher's sub-.200 batting average does. And if he can hit 15 to 20 home runs while batting fifth, sixth or seventh, that'll be much more than what the Giants have received in recent years. Molina's on-base percentage and advanced statistical metrics will remain low. And he'll remain slow.
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-- Steve F., Sunnyvale, Calif. The subject line on Steve's e-mail read, "Thinking way outside the box," which certainly was accurate. I actually don't think Steve is nuts, though legions of Giants fans surely would attempt to dismantle AT&T Park brick by brick if Lincecum were traded. The two-time Cy Young Award winner has become truly beloved. Removing sentiment from the discussion, Steve's imaginative proposal has at least two flaws: By moving Sandoval back behind the plate, the Giants likely would be dooming him to a shortened career, given the position's grueling nature (the Giants steadfastly refuse to consider using him as a catcher). Also, the Giants would have to settle on a contract extension with Gonzalez, whose current deal ends with a club option in 2011. Losing Lincecum and "flipping" Strasburg to San Diego would be a colossal waste for the Giants unless they could be assured that Gonzalez would stay for a long time. I've been seeing plenty in print on the projected 2010 lineup's possible erosion in defense. Do you have concerns how this might affect our (mostly) young pitching staff?
-- Steve D., South Lake Tahoe, Calif. It's a concern, regardless of the staff's age. Given the Giants' questionable offense, they can't afford to give up extra outs and thus extra runs. Up the middle, San Francisco has three former Gold Glove winners (Molina, shortstop Edgar Renteria and center fielder Aaron Rowand) -- emphasis on "former." If Aubrey Huff is as shaky with the glove as a lot of people say, he might play a lot of six- or seven-inning games, with Travis Ishikawa logging plenty of activity as a defensive replacement. Mark DeRosa had better do more than just take up space in left field. Sandoval must continue to work as hard on his fielding as he does his hitting. On paper, it's a group that doesn't inspire much confidence afield. I'll get right to the point: What's going to happen to Fred Lewis? We were counting on him last year and he absolutely blew it, but you got the idea that a lot of it was due to his confidence issues. He clearly has raw baseball talent, but obviously he's not playing anytime soon for us.
-- Mark C., San Francisco Lewis indeed appears to have fallen out of favor with the organization. I envision this scenario: Lewis will play well enough in the Cactus League to earn a starting role, but that will make it easier for the Giants to trade him, which they will do. Bochy charitably said at the Winter Meetings that Lewis would be "in the mix" for an outfield spot. That was before the Giants signed DeRosa and declared that he would play left field. Lewis' 2009 performance hardly inspired confidence, but he fits the profile of a leadoff hitter better than any other Giants player, despite his lack of enthusiasm for that role. He probably needs a change of scenery -- too bad, because ideally he should be helping the Giants. I don't get it. Why would we have considered $8.5 million per year for Andy LaRoche, but not $9 million per year for Chone Figgins. We are not in a park where pop "pops." We need slashers with speed.
-- Chris L., San Francisco I couldn't agree more. I thought the Giants should have pursued Figgins hard once open free agency began. Maybe they did, or maybe he didn't want to play for the Giants, but he should have been a top priority. There's your leadoff hitter! What are the chances of the Giants signing Eric Byrnes? He's a local guy, and when he's healthy, he is a pretty good ballplayer. Could he help us?
-- Jon N., Monterey, Calif. At this point, it's extremely doubtful that the Giants will sign Byrnes. It would be an excellent feel-good story, but they already have plenty of extra outfielders. The Blue Jays again? Wow. They acquired Brian Bocock and Merkin Valdez, too? Unbelievable! I'm surprised they haven't made a run at Ryan Garko!
-- Matt R., Vallejo, Calif. And don't believe the rumors that Toronto is trying to lure Shea Hillenbrand out of retirement.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.