Molina trade could pave way for another deal
More catching for Posey allows Giants to pursue infielder
DENVER -- Potentially, trading Bengie Molina does more for the Giants than begin Buster Posey's much-anticipated tenure as the team's primary catcher.
Sending Molina to the Texas Rangers for right-handers Chris Ray and Michael Main, a deal that became official Thursday, could help set up the Giants' next trade -- one which general manager Brian Sabean hopes will bring San Francisco a productive hitter.By trading Molina, Posey obviously will catch more frequently though not exclusively. Manager Bruce Bochy indicated that Eli Whiteside, the backup catcher whose skills the Giants deeply respect, will share playing time with Posey, thus easing the rookie's transition instead of suddenly thrusting him into an everyday role. For instance, Whiteside will catch Tim Lincecum in Friday night's game at Colorado Posey will continue to start at first base, though not as frequently as he did in the first few weeks after being recalled from Triple-A Fresno on May 29. Sabean said that Posey likely would rest against certain right-handed pitchers -- again, as a way of developing his skills gradually.
Still, said Sabean, "make no mistake, he's in there to get playing time as much as possible, especially behind the plate."Now, Sabean can more freely pursue a corner infielder, besides the much-rumored crop of outfielders the Giants are allegedly eyeing, since adding a first or third baseman wouldn't necessarily reduce Posey's activity (San Francisco could add a third baseman and play Pablo Sandoval at first). This prompted Sabean to say of the Molina trade, "I think the timing's good," particularly with the July 31 Trade Deadline approaching. Sabean said that he and his braintrust will have more to talk about when they discuss "how we're going to bring somebody else in here." Bringing somebody else in to catch besides Molina could be a short-term concern for the Giants, given his influence on San Francisco's mostly young pitching staff. "He helped me mature and succeed. I've said time and time again that he deserves half of those awards that I've gotten," said Lincecum, the reigning two-time National League Cy Young Award winner. "The things he's done for me -- for calling a game, to give me confidence throwing different pitches in different counts -- really, really, really benefited me," Matt Cain said of Molina. Yet the pair of right-handers downplayed the inconvenience of making a transition from a veteran to a novice. "This is a game where you have to evolve and adapt. Constantly, actually," said Lincecum, who allowed two runs in seven innings in a 2-0 loss to the Chicago Cubs in a game Posey caught last Sept. 25. "It essentially comes down to us, as the pitchers, making sure that we have the right pitch we want to throw," Cain said. "If he puts something down and we throw it and we didn't want to throw it, it's our fault. It's not his fault. The game's in our hands." Molina's departure punctuated the starting rotation's most extreme slump of the season. Entering Thursday night's series opener at Colorado, Giants starters had recorded a 7.82 ERA in the previous eight games. That didn't stop the Giants from collaborating with Texas GM Jon Daniels on a trade that developed in less than 72 hours, Sabean said. It might have been completed more quickly were it not for the approval required for the cash, believed to be $2 million, that the Giants sent the Rangers to compensate for Molina's salary. Molina, 35, finished his Giants tenure with a .276 batting average, 83 doubles, 58 home runs and 273 RBIs in 472 games. Though he had struggled this year (.257, three homers, 17 RBIs in 61 games), he's still expected to bolster Texas' catching corps, which was batting .209 entering Thursday. His 56 homers and 260 RBIs as a catcher rank second among Giants at that position on the all-time San Francisco list. Molina won the "Willie Mac" Award as the team's most inspirational player in 2007 and '08. Sabean said that Ray, who encountered arm problems after saving 49 games for Baltimore in 2006-07, will audition for a setup role. His arrival expanded the staff to 13 pitchers, which the Giants might stick with through the end of this three-city trip, given the starters' woes and since the club's next stop is Milwaukee, another hitter-friendly park. Main, Texas' first-round selection (20th overall) in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, will report to Double-A Richmond after compiling a 5-3 mark with a 3.45 ERA at high-Class A Bakersfield. "He's a tremendous makeup guy with definite ability," Daniels said. "And we really like him. You don't want to have to include any prospect in deals, but sometimes it's the nature of the game."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.