After missing out on former Pittsburgh Pirates backstop Russell Martin earlier this week, the Chicago Cubs’ options to complement Welington Castillo behind the dish are limited. That being said, one of the most veteran catchers in the game, Jose Molina, was designated for assignment Thursday by the Tampa Bay Rays, leading to an intriguing possibility for Theo Esptein and Jed Hoyer.
The 39-year-old is not – and has not ever been – considered to be an offensive threat. A career .233/.282/.327 hitter over 15 big league seasons, Molina has seen time with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays and Cubs, in addition to the Rays, and is widely regarded as one of the best veteran minds behind the dish – despite his age. Last season, the Cubs regularly trotted out Castillo, but also relied upon John Baker to man home plate on a fairly-regular basis.
Molina is no longer an everyday starting option, but could potentially fit in as a veteran presence who could be a strong impact in a very young Cubs clubhouse. Last season with Tampa Bay, the former 14th round pick of Chicago appeared in 80 games, batting .178/.230/.187 with 10 RBIs. Behind the dish, he threw out 27 percent of would-be base stealers. In 2010, he threw out 44 percent of attempted thieves – but as noted, he’s lost a step all-around.
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Whether or not Chicago – or any other club – deems the aging backstop worth the risk given his struggles remains to be seen. However, providing such a mentor for Castillo and up-and-coming catchers including Kyle Schwarber, the Cubs’ first-round draft pick last year, could ultimately tip the scales in favor of taking a chance on the Molina brother, who could transition into a coaching role after the 2015 season.
A return to the Windy City is even more intriguing given the fact Chicago drafted Molina and the backstop made his big league debut with the Cubs back in 1999, but with no suitors yet reported, Molina’s future in the game is unclear. However, even if Chicago – or any other team – opts to not bring him onboard as a player, don’t be surprised to see the longtime veteran in a uniform in some capacity, perhaps as a coach, next season.