Playing for keeps with their AL West lead, the Texas Rangers struck a deal Wednesday night to acquire catcher Bengie Molina from the San Francisco Giants, beefing up an already solid offense and filling an area of need behind the plate.
The deal was formalized Thursday. The move not only solidifies the Rangers, who entered Wednesday night's game in Anaheim with a 3 1/2-game lead over the Angels, it also positions San Francisco for another move after a disappointing series in which the Giants were swept by the Dodgers.
The Giants, who will receive reliever Chris Ray and a minor-league right-hander named Michael Main, will turn catching duties over to rookie Buster Posey and are expected to seek a bat to power their lineup at first base. Speculation has centered on Milwaukee's Prince Fielder, headed for free agency after the 2011 season. The Chicago Cubs' Derrek Lee is another possibility.
Molina was hitting .257 with three homers and 17 RBI in 61 games for the Giants this season. A past All-Star and a solid all-around player, Molina has been something of a frustration at times to San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy and his staff.
Though he produced more than could have been expected batting out-of-position last summer -- often in the fourth slot in a weak-hitting lineup, he hit .265 with 20 homers and 80 RBI -- he appeared to be running on empty down the stretch. This year, Molina often hit sixth, but as he's struggled at the plate he was hitting eighth and he clearly was not happy being bounced around the lineup.
Molina, who turns 36 on July 20, should find Texas' ballpark more conducive to hitting. And he will give the Rangers stability behind the plate. Texas catchers this season have combined to bat .212 with seven home runs and 30 RBIs.
The two catchers with whom they opened the season, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Taylor Teagarden, both were optioned to the minors on April 27. Among other things, Saltalamacchia is battling a throwing problem in which he's having serious difficulty consistently returning the ball to the pitcher.
Journeyman Matt Treanor has been handling most of the catching duties.
Molina has picked it up some offensively recently: He leaves San Francisco hitting .286 over his past 15 games with a homer and five RBIs.