Tired of Wil Nieves’ inability to provide any offense as a backup to all-star catcher Jorge Posada, the Yankees traded for a new No. 2 catcher on Saturday. New York picked up Jose Molina from the Angels in exchange for Double-A righthander Jeff Kennard.
The Big Leaguers
Molina, 27, is nothing more than a backup and is just the third-best catcher in his family (brothers Bengie and Yadier are big league starters), but he’s still an upgrade over Nieves. He doesn’t offer much with the bat except for occasional power, and he hit .224/.242/.288 with no homers and 10 RBIs in 40 games with Los Angeles this year. He’s better defensively, having thrown out 41 percent of basestealers during his career (28 percent this season). Molina is making $1.25 million in 2007, the final season of a two-year, $2.1 million contract. He’ll be eligible for free agency for the first time after this season. He’s a career .237/.275/.339 hitter with 15 homers and 98 RBIs in 373 games.
Kennard, 25, was a 40th-round pick from an Ohio high school in 2000 and signed the next spring as a draft-and-follow out of Rend Lake (Ill.) JC. He was suspended for 15 games for violating baseball’s performance-enhancing drug policy in 2005, and his stuff has improved since his return. Kennard now reaches the mid-90s with his fastball and his slider also has gotten better. Projected as a middle reliever, he has gone 1-4, 2.73 with six saves in 31 games at Double-A Trenton this year. He has a 47-17 K-BB ratio in 53 innings, while opponents have batted .247 with three homers against him.
While it’s a very minor deal, it makes sense for both clubs. The Yankees get a backup catcher who’s not a total zero with the bat. The Angels get possible bullpen help for the near future and create another opportunity for Jeff Mathis to establish himself as a big leaguer, for now as Mike Napoli’s backup.