Catcher Bengie Molina's free-agent odyssey is nearing a conclusion. The Blue Jays are close to signing Molina to a one-year, $5 million contract with a $7.5 million option for 2007, FOXSports.com has learned.
The addition of Molina, 31, will further solidify the Jays' position as a likely contender in the AL East. He will be the team's fifth major off-season addition, joining third baseman Troy Glaus, first baseman Lyle Overbay and two other free agents, right-handed starter A.J. Burnett and closer B.J. Ryan.
The Mets made Molina a three-year, $18 million offer early in free agency, then traded for catcher Paul LoDuca before conducting further discussions. Molina ultimately chose the Blue Jays over the Dodgers, who continued negotiating with him over the weekend and apparently were willing to offer a similar contract.
The Dodgers, however, have two highly regarded young catchers, Dioner Navarro and Russ Martin. Molina evidently believed he had a better chance of lasting longer with the Jays, who do not have a major-league ready catching prospect. The Angels chose not to re-sign Molina in part because of the ascent of Jeff Mathis, who will team with Molina's younger brother, Jose, this season.
Bengie Molina's arrival in Toronto will relegate Gregg Zaun to backup duty, giving the Jays one of the game's strongest catching tandems.
Molina, a right-handed hitter, reached career highs last season in batting average (.295), on-base percentage (.336), slugging percentage (.446) and home runs (15). Zaun, a switch-hitter, had career highs in home runs (11) and RBIs (61).
Both Molina and Zaun work well with pitchers, though some scouts believe that Molina's receiving skills have regressed. Molina's 3.55 catchers' ERA last season was the third-best in the majors.