Bengie Molina's return to the Giants should have fantasy owners both intrigued and irritated at the same time.
The rumors that had linked Molina to the Mets would have created value for two catchers, but his signing with his old team likely limits the upside of one and hurts the total value of another.
With Molina signing and the impending arrival of Buster Posey, fantasy owners need to adjust their expectations for both these catchers.
Molina has been a solid offensive option for those that have owned him since basically 2003. Each year since, Molina has put up at least 10 home runs and has hit 15 or more in the last five seasons.
Last year, Molina was one of just seven catchers across baseball to hit at least 20 home runs. He has been consistently in the top five in that category since joining the Blue Jays in 2006.
While his average fell off slightly in 2009, injuries and luck played a part in that.
In 2009, Molina's BABIP dropped 20 points, causing his average to fall to .265 from the .280 range we have seen over the last few seasons.
Some of this could be a result of age and breaking down. That is further supported by the six-point drop in his overall contact rate.
No doubt, at 35 (turning 36 in the middle of 2010), Molina is on the down slope of his career. As was evidenced by his negotiations with the Mets, he certainly does not believe he is a backup, though.
For the Giants, he is a known commodity in the same way he is for fantasy owners.
If he were to catch 125 games, Molina likely could provide a .270/15/75 line for fantasy owners. Not bad production out of a catcher, even in a year when the position is getting deeper. Whether or not he gets that volume of games, however, is up in the air because of Posey.
Before the signing of Molina, it was widely assumed that Posey would, at a minimum, break camp with the Giants. In all likelihood it would have been as the starting catcher.
Earlier this offseason, I wrote how the Giants have concerns over his ability to handle a pitching staff. Posey is a threat on offense, but his ability to call and catch the game is still a major unknown. The addition of Molina will allow him to ease into the role but will reduce his fantasy impact.
Posey was never likely to catch 140 games during his rookie season, but he was a legitimate threat to catch 100 to 120 on the lower end of the scale. Now, the assumption has to be that he will find himself in a timeshare with Molina.
Posey has more capability at the plate. While Molina had his first 20-home run season last year, Posey will not struggle to maintain that mark on a consistent basis as a full-time catcher. Several scouting reports have him projecting out as a player that can hit nearly 25 a year.
Young players need playing time to develop, and splitting games is not the most beneficial way to do that.
At 125 games for Posey in 2010, he likely would have come in near similar numbers we would see from Molina. The great unknown would still be his adjustment period.
It was just his second season of professional baseball in 2009, and Posey has only played 35 games above Single-A level. Asking him to make the leap to the Giants could be a difficult task even for a more seasoned hitter.
Expectations were lofty for Baltimore's Matt Wieters last year, and while he played well, he was not the .300/25/90 player that many hoped he would be during last spring.
Even starting the season with the Giants, Posey's expectations should be watered down some. If he were to get 125 games, expect a .275/13/65 as he learns the ropes and expectations that come along with playing at that level. That makes him middle-of-the-road over most categories, and anything better should be viewed as gravy.
The questions then turn to what owners should expect from the combination.
Until the battle plays out over the spring, Molina should be expected to start the season as the primary backstop. He has been in situations like this before.
In both 2001 and 2004 he shared responsibilities and acquitted himself well. Using that as a base, look for Molina to end up with 95 games and a line of .270/12/50.
Posey will pick up the slack, getting about 70 games (for the sake of rounding; I know there are only 162 games in a season). With that in mind, .275/8/45 would be a reasonable expectation.
It is a far cry from the numbers that many would hope to see, and what has put him on sleeper lists in every magazine in baseball. Posey will eventually get to that point, but Molina will hinder his ability to do that this season.
Even should the split be switched, which is a distinct possibility, expect only that the numbers for Posey would adjust up slightly. He may end up with more RBI and a slightly better average in getting 95 games, but his home run total likely does not reach 15 unless he catches 120 games or more. He should hit closer to .280 with 60 RBI and 12 home runs.
Unfortunately, splitting time makes it hard to draft either of these players unless you are in a two-catcher format. Posey's value may take a hit this season, but there is no doubt that he is the future catcher for the Giants.
Molina just makes the bridge that much easier to cross.