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C Jose Molina deal appears imminent

23

November

Free agent catcher Jose Molina visited with the Rays Tuesday, word is that he was here to take a physical for a potential deal, which appears imminent.

The Rays have not commented on the situation, and won't until any official announcement is made. That will likely come next week.

Molina, 36, has been a backup primarily during his 12-year career, but he fits well with the kind of catching platoon the Rays desire. He's very strong defensively, ranking fourth among active catchers by throwing out 40 percent of attempted basestealers. He handles pitching staffs well, which is important with the Rays' prized rotation. Molina has a wealth of experience in the American League East, having played for the Yankees and Blue Jays the past five years, and could be a valuable mentor for rookies Jose Lobaton and Robinson Chirinos. He has won two World Series, one with Anaheim in 2002 along with Rays manager Joe Maddon, who is a big fan.

And considering Molina made just $1.2 million last year with the Jays, he likely fits in the Rays price range, whether it's a one-year deal with an option or not. Molina, whose career-high is 81 starts, would be in a platoon situation, with left-handed hitting C John Jaso also on the roster, as is switch-hitting Lobaton.

Molina wouldn't have to travel very far. Though he's from Puerto Rico, he also has a home in North Tampa.

A signing of the right-handed hitting Molina would appear to end any chance of C Kelly Shoppach returning next season. The Rays declined Shoppach's $3.2 million option for next year. Molina's career high is six homers, but he's coming off a strong year at the plate in which he hit .281 for Toronto.

-- JOE SMITH

joesmith@sptimes.com

[Last modified: Friday, December 23, 2011 12:40am]

    

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