The Bengie Molina trade has been getting a lot of attention on the Internet, I assume because Bengie was once a big star and because people have wildly varying opinions of his value as a ballplayer.

I saw on that the player to be named later the Giants will likely receive is Michael Main, a 21-year-old RHP, whom the Rangers selected with the 24th overall pick of the 2007 Draft. 

If Main is the PTBNL the Giants do, in fact, receive, he’s worth the $2 million in salary for Molina the Giants are sending to Texas.

Main is currently a starter for Bakersfield in the Class A+ California League.  He’s 5-3 with a 3.45 ERA and a line of 91.1 IP, 87 hits, 14 HRs and 21 walks allowed, and 72 Ks. 

The home run total is too high, but the rest of the numbers are pretty good for a 21-year-old starter pitching in the hit-happy California League.

Bengie has been something of a lightning rod the last few seasons.  The stat-heads (of which I would consider myself an out-lying member), argue that Bengie is way overrated because his on-base percentages are terrible, he’s dead slow, and his defense behind the plate has slipped considerably in recent years.

As a Giants’ fan, I’ve gotten a good look at Bengie in his tenure in San Francisco, and I don’t entirely agree. 

Yes, Bengie’s OBP is terrible, but it’s comparable to an awful lot of other regular and semi-regular catchers in MLB, and most of them don’t have Bengie’s power.

Yes, Bengie’s only hit 20 home runs in a season once, and it was exactly 20 that one year (2009), but he’s hit between 14 and 19 HRs in six other seasons.  That has some value.

Bengie’s offensive inadequacies were exacerbated by the fact that Giants manager Bruce Bochy insisted on batting him cleanup much of the last few seasons. 

That’s not Bengie’s fault—he’d have made a fine sixth- or seventh-place hitter.  Sadly, the Giants didn’t have a whole lot of significantly better options.

My personal observations were that Molina did a good job managing a young pitching staff.  The numbers, however, suggest that perhaps Bengie didn’t make much of a difference.

The Giants’ team ERAs the last four years (including 2010) were 4.11, 4.28, 3.74 and 3.46 when Bengie was catching, compared to 4.19, 4.38, 3.55 and 3.46 overall.  That looks like a wash, although Bengie was overwhelmingly the catcher behind the plate for the Giants in those years.

Much of the problem with Molina’s inability to throw out base runners as a Giant was the result of a pitching staff unable to hold runners and move quickly to the plate. 

For example, I doubt any of the Molina brothers, even the young, spry Gold-Glove-winning ones, would throw out a high percentage of base-stealers with Tim Lincecum on the slab.

Of the National League’s top 20 starters the last two seasons, Lincecum has been the worst at holding runners to their bases. 

Fortunately, he doesn’t allow a lot of hitters to get on base and can rely on the strikeout to keep runners from advancing.  The rest of the Giants’ pitching staff isn’t a whole lot better (Brian Wilson in particular is the second-coming of Robb Nen).

Mychael Urban of CSN Bay Area, while I don’t necessarily agree with his contention that this is Brian Sabean’s biggest deal of the last few years, makes a particularly good point that Bengie is a veteran player who feels like he’s put in the time to deserve to play every day, even if he isn’t performing. 

Bengie had subtly made it clear that he would not be happy if he lost his starting job to Buster Posey.  That meant Bengie had to go.

Young players (as a group) are hungrier than veterans (as a group).  Young players just want to get in the line up and get a chance to play so they can prove themselves.

Veteran stars have a sense of entitlement that, even if they haven’t been carrying their salaries for a while and are old enough they probably won’t get back what they’ve lost with the passing of the years, they still feel they should be playing every day based on what they accomplished in the past.

That’s just not the way professional sports work.  Teams have now shown that they will eat a surprising amount of salary once they’ve decided a veteran star just doesn’t have it any more.

I wish Bengie all the success in the world in Texas, but now that the deal is done, I’m also hoping that Chris Ray turns out to the sixth coming of Juan Uribe, Aubrey Huff, Pat Burrell, Santiago Casilla and Denny Bautista: i.e. another American League wash-out who finds new life in the City by the Bay.

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