With a critical series about to start in Colorado and their season slipping away, the Giants solved the Bengie Molina problem by trading him to the Texas Rangers late Wednesday afternoon.
For some time, I’ve been saying the Giants should replace Molina as their starting catcher with Buster Posey. A week ago, I wrote, “Buster Posey is the catcher of the future — and the future should be now.”
Molina had been a productive hitter for the Giants, with 20 home runs and 80 RBI last season. But he’d become dead weight this season, with just three home runs and 17 RBI in nearly half a season.
Meanwhile, he was retarding the growth of Posey. In spring training, the Giants pitchers made it clear that they wanted Molina behind the plate, so Posey was sent to Fresno.
Pitchers often have a favorite catcher, and they talk about how he knows them and what pitches to call. In most cases, this is nothing more than a kind of superstition. Pitchers like a catcher because they’ve been successful with him behind the plate, but what happens when this catcher is hurt or injured and another takes his place? They keep winning.
The Giants starters are mostly young, but they’re experienced. Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Barry Zito don’t need any help, and Jonathan Sanchez’s favorite catcher has been backup Eli Whiteside. The only inexperienced pitcher in the current rotation is Madison Bumgarner — and Posey caught him in Fresno.
The change also enables the Giants to return Aubrey Huff to first base; though Huff hasn’t hurt them in the outfield, he’s a better defender at first base. Most of all, though, it gives Posey a chance to play what should be his career position.
There’s been debate among Giants followers as to whether Posey should be a catcher or first baseman. Some have argued that he should be a first baseman because that would prolong his career. I feel just the opposite: He’ll probably have a longer career as a catcher.
First base is supposed to be a power position. It’s easy for Giants fans to forget that because the bar has been set so low in recent years. I always thought of J.T. Snow as the best defensive first baseman I ever saw, though a marginal hitter for the position. But Snow is the best hitting first baseman the Giants have had since Will Clark. He had seasons of 28 home runs, 104 RBI and 24 home runs, 98 RBI.
Though he’s in a slump now, Posey appears to be a player who will hit for average, but there’s no sign yet that he’ll be a big home run hitter; he hit 11 in 303 at-bats in Fresno over the last two seasons and has hit just one in his first 97 at-bats with the Giants.
That kind of offense is subpar for a first baseman, but if Posey hits .300 with 15-20 home runs as a catcher, that would be a plus because it’s a defensive position.
This change will probably not be enough to save the Giants, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.