It's hard to get all excited about Bengie Molina, especially when the rumor mill is spitting out beauties like Benitez for Sexson, but I can understand why some are disgusted. He's getting older, declining defensively, and isn't going to be a part of the next great Giants team. I'm a member of the Church of Limiting Offensive Holes*, however, so I can't get too upset with the move. Molina is about a league-average hitter, but one that plays catcher. The Church likes those kinds of players. You shouldn't question The Church. The Church is already looking for ways to get Pedro Feliz a starring role in a Broadway musical, which would immediately start a new career for him. The Church is connected.
Trusting in defensive statistics to evaluate a catcher is like asking a phrenologist what college you should go to. You'll definitely get an answer; sometimes it will even be correct. But I can't trust them. There is no way Eliezer Alfonzo is anything other than a bad defensive catcher. He doesn't get in front of balls, has an erratic and mediocre arm, and has a wonderful penchant of allowing passed balls at exactly the wrong time. I have the feeling that Craig Biggio would catch a better game today.
That's okay. You can life with the iffy defense when the catcher is slugging .400. The difference between bad and great defense from your catcher can't be more than a couple of wins. There would be a very real chance, though, that Eliezer would put up 500 at-bats of .210/.230/.310 goodness. A very, very real chance. That kind of performance can devastate a team; just look at the third base hole in 2002. Alfonzo was a .288/.323/.452 hitter in the minors, but those numbers came almost exclusively in A-ball. The only great performance of Eliezer's career came in high-A in the same year he was suspended for performance-enhancing drugs. I have no faith in his ability to reproduce his 2006. Molina is usually about the 10th- to 15th-best offensive catcher in baseball, and has been consistently for the past three years.
The money? Five million for three years? That's not exactly cheap, and I would take my chances with Eliezer if the free agent market could actually fill other holes this season. I mean you could have half of Adam Eaton for that kind of money! This offseason is wretched, though. And giving $5M to Molina isn't going to be the difference between Adam Dunn and Willie Bloomquist starting at first in 2008. After 2008, the only Giants under contract are the players under 30, Randy Winn, and Molina. As long as Molina doesn't completely fall into the toilet, the contract is tradeable if the Giants really do need that extra $5M.
Molina is basically Pedro Feliz in Feliz's good years, at catcher, with fewer strikeouts; that isn't a bad guy to have hitting in front of the pitcher. Molina also moves around the bases as if he's being actively swallowed by a boa constrictor. That's okay. You can live with the shortcomings when the catcher is slugging .450.
Now let's turn our tub of goo closer into a slugging first baseman!
* Why are you giggling? I don't g...oh STOP. You're just sick