The Tampa Bay Rays are set at catcher for 2014, re-signing veteran Jose Molina to a two-year deal with a total of $4.5 million. Molina will likely continue to split time behind the plate with Jose Lobaton next season.
The 38-year old Molina isn't known for his bat – his career line is just .238/.287/.340, and he's had a wRC+ above 100 just once in the last decade. But what Molina brings to the table is a very important aspect for catchers – elite pitch framing.
There are several studies on pitch framing out there, and they all agree – Molina is one of the best in the business. The value is difficult to quantify, but one estimate had Molina adding 0.5 runs of value per 100 pitches. Bradley Woodrum at Fangraphs attempted to combine Molina's framing skills with his overall offensive skills, and determined that he's provided more value than fellow free agent catchers AJ Pierzynski, John Buck, and Kurt Suzuki over the past three year while receiving significantly less playing time.
While Molina excels at framing, he's also phenomenal at blocking the plate (save your Brian McCann jokes, please). Molina also excels at throwing potential base stealers out, and while his 29.1% kill rate isn't in the same league as his brother Yadier's 43.5% mark, it's above the league average of 27.2%.
A team like the Rays can't get involved in the bidding for someone like Brian McCann, who will make more in the first two months of 2014 than Molina will make over the next two years. And now, the Rays are set behind the plate with a wily, unappreciated veteran and a 29-year old who is still under team control for four more years that can hit a little bit and is maybe learning a bit about framing from Molina. $4.5 million over two years is nothing for someone that provides the under the radar value that Molina does.