Monday, June 16, 2008

Bengie Molina could provide a boost to the Angels weak position in the lineup

Catcher: One position Angels may look to improve
By Adam Dodge - Senior Writer

During the Bill Stoneman era July 31st of each year proved to be just another day for Angel fans. The conservative General Manager did not make a major deadline deal while at the helm of the organization much to the displeasure of a portion of the fan base.

Tony Reagins is in charge now and while most view him as nothing more than a Stoneman clone (Angel fans should be so lucky), he has yet to negotiate a trade deadline of his own. Will he make a splash in 2008 and appease the those fans that feel that “standing pat,” regardless of the team’s talent and depth, is somehow contrary to a winning philosophy?

If Reagins is to try and improve the roster via mid-season trade it appears that the catching position is what we should keep our eye on. Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis have shared the catching duties, with each player getting the majority of starts at different points of the season. Both have played extremely well for short stretches, but neither guy has hit with any consistency.

Entering Friday night’s game against the Atlanta Braves, Mike Napoli is hitting just .205, after a recent slump that has seen him get just 2 hits in his last 33 at-bats. Napoli is tied for the team lead with 10 home runs, but hasn’t hit one since May 18th.

Jeff Mathis has been no better, hitting just .208 with 4 home runs heading into the weekend series versus the Atlanta Braves. Scioscia has given the majority of starts to Mathis recently opting for the better defender behind the plate.

The Angels are unlikely to make a major move again this season. Both Napoli and Mathis have done a fine job of handling the pitching staff and both are expected by Angel management to improve. However, it is the one area of the team we can expect Reagins to at least look at improving.

At the top of the list of available catchers this season might be former Angel Bengie Molina, who is in the midst of perhaps his best season. Molina is hitting .321 with 6 home runs and 42 RBI for the San Francisco Giants. A key piece of the Angels World Series Championship in 2002 under Mike Scioscia, Molina certainly understands the Angel philosophy and would fit right into the clubhouse. He’s also very familiar with Angel pitchers John Lackey, Scot Shields, Frankie Rodriguez and Ervin Santana.

The Giants are certainly not going anywhere, and are crippled by an old roster, with a high payroll. They need to get younger.

Of course, what San Francisco would want in return would be determined by the market for Molina, which likely would not include any of the elite American League teams other than the Angels. Every other contender in the AL has weaknesses other than at starting catcher. There are several National League teams which may have interest.

The Angels could offer one of their two young catchers and perhaps either Reggie Willits or Juan Rivera, who would immediately impact the weak Giants’ line-up. In the meantime they’d save several million dollars in payroll.

Will we see Bengie Molina back in an Angel uniform? Doubtful. But, he is the one guy out there that makes perfect sense for Reagins to pursue, especially if Napoli and Mathis continue to struggle at the plate. He’s an ex-Angel, who understands the pitching staff and can hit.

The Angels one weakness this season, like in recent seasons, has been offense. Bengie Molina makes the Angels a better offensive team, and is not yet a liability behind the plate. He’s made just two errors in 2008 and has thrown out a respectable 28% of the potential base-stealers.

Allowing Molina to walk after 2005 was arguably at least a minor mistake. It could be rectified if he were to help the Angels to win it all in 2008.
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