Giants finalize three-year, $16M deal with Molina

Updated: December 7, 2006, 1:20 AM ET
Associated Press

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The San Francisco Giants finalized a $16 million, three-year contract with catcher Bengie Molina on Wednesday to replace Mike Matheny, who might not play again because of a concussion.

Toronto Blue Jays

117 19 57 44 .319 .284

The deal to acquire Molina had been in the works for several days, and general manager Brian Sabean made the difficult call to Matheny's representative Wednesday to let him know the club was moving forward.

"With Mike's situation still up in the air ... the long and short, to be able to get Bengie and to sign him to a multiyear deal was a step forward for us," Sabean said. "We really aren't in a position to be able to wait too much longer one way or the other on Mike's situation."

Molina, a two-time Gold Glove, is scheduled to make $4 million next season, $6 million in 2007 and $6 million in '08. He batted .284 with a career-high 19 home runs and 57 RBI in 117 games for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2006.

When he was close to joining the Giants, Molina talked to younger brother Yadier --the Cardinals' catcher -- about the National League.

"I was very excited to go to a new league," Molina said. "The organization is so big and so tremendously famous. I wanted to be there. I'll try to do my little part and see what happens. I think I bring a lot to the table."

Molina will be the starter after rookie Eliezer Alfonzo stepped in and played well in place of Matheny, who didn't play after May 31 following a series of foul tips he took in the mask. Alfonzo will still be in the mix, likely as the backup.

"We needed a front-line catcher," Sabean said. "We weren't comfortable as an organization going forward with Alfonzo in general as the No. 1 guy. The chance to get somebody experienced, especially somebody who can drive in runs, was very attractive. ... With name recognition and his background, it certainly gives us a comfort level. Believe me, that's nothing to take away from Alfonzo's efforts."

Sabean also called and left a message for Matheny, who on Wednesday was undergoing what could be a final battery of tests at the Sports Concussion Program at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center to determine if his symptoms have subsided.

Sabean said the signing of Molina "is not coming as any surprise" to Matheny. If Matheny were able to return in 2007, Sabean said that would only be a bonus.

Matheny has told Sabean he understood he had to move forward with its plans for next year, with or without him. He also realizes that he's more susceptible to further damage if he were to be hit again.

"I'm sick to my stomach," Sabean said of idea of moving ahead without Matheny. "It's gut-wrenching."

The sides are discussing a way for Matheny to remain part of the organization in some capacity to fill out the term of his contract, which is up after next season.

The 32-year-old Molina committed two errors last season, his ninth in the majors, and has eight errors over the past three years. He appreciates having the stability of a multiyear contract.

"My mind is still the same," he said. "I caught great games and I always have caught great games. I have a great baseball mind."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press