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Draft Picks, Schmaft Picks: Why the Giants Were Right Not to Offer Arbitration to Bengie Molina

Nothing like a piece of actual, honest-to-Bonds news to get folks riled up. Bengie Molina was not offered arbitration yesterday, so the Giants will not receive any draft pick consideration when another team signs him. That's kind of a big deal. Without draft pick compensation, the Giants would not have had Tim Alderson, which means that they wouldn't have Freddy Sanchez. And where would the team be then? WHERE WOULD THE TEAM BE THEN? We certainly wouldn't have advanced to the NLCS last season, that's for sure.

The Giants also picked up Nick Noonan in the supplemental round, and even if you're not enamored of Noonan as a prospect, he could still bring back a major leaguer in a trade. He has a certain kind of value to the organization without ever rising above A-ball. And that's a pessimistic line of thought, ignoring the (albeit unlikely) chance that a team can turn compensation picks into guys like Joba Chamberlain, Chris Coghlan, Colby Rasmus, Clay Buchholz, or Jackson Williams. Everyone likes a bunch of a raffle tickets, and the Giants politely declined their chance at a fistful of them.

There's merit to the idea that it was worth the risk to offer Molina arbitration. Even Brian Sabean thinks Molina will get a multi-year contract, and Molina only had a week to decide whether or not to accept arbitration.

Think about what the Bengie Molina market would have been, though, if the Giants would have offered arbitration. The team pursuing Molina would have needed to:

a. have a need at catcher
b. be willing to spend and give out a multi-year deal
c. still think RBI mean more than a league-worst on-base percentage, that a catcher's pitcher-handling abilities can make up for a poor OBP, etc....
d. be willing to give up a first- or second-round draft pick

That whittles down the list considerably. The Mets, and the, uh...Nationals? Mariners? I'd guess that there are about five or six teams that might have semi-serious interest in Molina, and that's even before money is brought up.

I'll also guess that Molina isn't going to get another three-year deal. He's older, and teams aren't as willing to spend in this market, so he's probably looking at a two-year deal. I'm not sure what the average salary would be, and that's the key to the decision to not offer arbitration. If the Mets indicate that they're only willing to offer something like 2/$10M or 2/$12M, Molina's agent might be able to convince him that he'd get almost as much from the Giants if he accepted arbitration.

Crazy? Maybe. But it isn't like it's Rob Neyer on the arbitration panel, and Molina's agent would be able to pound away at two points: Molina had more RBI than anyone else on the team over the past two seasons, and Molina has been the catcher calling pitches for a two-time Cy Young winner. RBIs. Low ERAs. RBIs. Low ERAs. That deserves a raise from $6M, right? So the agent asks for $10M, which is what the Mets' first contract offer was over two seasons. Hey, Jorge Posada is making $13M, and he isn't even a cleanup hitter! The Giants could then try to settle for something like $8M, or they could risk losing, but either way they'd have a catcher for another year who's even less valuable than they think making money that could have gone to a legitimate offensive upgrade. Yick.

The hope, then, would be that the Mets would indicate early that they're willing to give a third year, or a high enough annual salary for a two-year deal that would eliminate the need for a safety net like the $8M or so the Giants would have to pay for a single season. And the Mets would have to do that even though there isn't going to be a lot of competition for Molina.

It was all too risky. The Giants did the right thing, even though an extra late-first/early-second pick and a supplemental pick would have been pretty danged sweet.