The Tampa Bay Rays have re-signed veteran catcher Jose Molina as part of their efforts to put out a starting nine that can make a serious run in the 2014 season. The Rays and Molina agreed to a two-year, $4.5 million contract after the catcher declared free agency this offseason. Molina has also agreed to pay $40,000 to the Rays Baseball Foundation over the course of his next two seasons.
This will be Molina’s third season with the Rays, and may be his final major league contract. Molina is 38, and will be 40 by the time his contract is up after the 2015 season. The catcher batted .233 with 2 home runs and 18 RBIs in 99 games for the Rays last season. He started in 87 of them, which is six more than his previous career high that came with the New York Yankees in 2008.
Based on his lackluster offensive numbers, many may question why the Rays decided to bring the veteran catcher back. Molina’s value actually comes from his defensive skills, as well as his ability to handle pitchers. The Rays have seen that Molina is very useful at thwarting the running game, which helps to keep starting pitchers in games for longer and puts less pressure on hitters to score runs. Molina caught 17 of 73 base stealing attempts in 2013, which is just above the Major League average. The catcher’s career caught-stealing percentage of 37.7%, however, is fourth among active catchers. Molina’s ability as a game manager certainly makes up for his lack of strong offensive numbers.
Molina will be splitting time with Jose Lobaton this season, which will give the veteran plenty of chances to get some rest. Lobaton provides more of an offensive boost for the Rays’ lineup; he hit .249 with 7 home runs and 32 RBIs in 100 games in 2013.
These two catchers proved their value in different ways in 2013, and the Rays hope that their depth at catcher will help their chances of winning next season.
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