Jose Molina poses for a photo at Salt Lake in April 2001.
As most of you know by now, the Angels yesterday traded catcher Jose Molina to the Yankees for Double-A reliever Jeff Kennard. You can read all about it on the MLB.com site.
Jose would have been a free agent at season’s end and turned 32 in June. It’s unlikely that a Jose Molina season in 2008 would be much different than a Jeff Mathis season. Jose would have asked for — and deserved — more money. He probably would have asked for a multi-year contract as did his brother Bengie. So Angels GM Bill Stoneman moved Jose while he could get something for him.
Already making the rounds on the fan sites is the news that Kennard was suspended for 15 games in 2005 for a first-time violation of Major League Baseball’s minor-league drug policy.
According to an article in the June 29, 2005 edition of the St. Petersburg Times, Kennard blamed an over-the-counter substance.
"I experienced one of my baseball highlights in the All-Star Game before 5,000 fans, then two days later I’m notified of the suspension," Kennard said. "Glutomine is an over-the-counter product I got at GNC (General Nutrition Center). It contained an andro (androstenedione) derivative, a banned substance, and that’s why I got busted.
"I’ve taken it since I’ve been in pro ball. It accelerates my recovery time. As a set-up man, I pitch a lot of innings, sometimes three days straight.
"I’m slightly embarrassed because they publicized my name. It’s out there and automatically people think it’s a steroid."
It’s water under the bridge as far as I’m concerned, because there are plenty other guys running around in the minor leagues — including the Angels’ organization — who have been dinged for one-time suspensions due to over-the-counter substances. But already on some Angels boards we’re seeing people who claim to be Angels fans using this as another excuse to bash Stoneman. These people really need to get a life.
More importantly, it means that the Angels have committed to Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis for the balance of the season, for better or for worse. That’s a big decision in a pennant race. Napoli has 158 games in the majors, and Mathis 35. I’ve always been high on Jeff (he was the #3 prospect on last November’s annual FutureAngels.com Top 10 Prospects list despite ranking lower on other lists), but as his bat still failed to return this year at Triple-A Salt Lake I began to wonder if at age 24 we were never going to see Jeff’s offense catch up to his defense. As I’ve pointed out many times, Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek didn’t even play regularly for Boston until he was 26 — Varitek was 23 when he was drafted — so Jeff still has time but that time was running out.
It may be that Napoli and Mathis evolve into the modern equivalent of the Dodgers’ catching combo of Joe Ferguson and Steve Yeager in the 1970s — one better with the bat, one better with the glove. It certainly worked well enough for the Dodgers, who were perennial contenders in that era and appeared in several World Series.
Behind them are Ryan Budde and Bobby Wilson. Wilson is on the 40-man roster. Budde is not. But Ryan was plucked away by the Phillies last December in the Rule 5 Draft, and they would have had to keep him on the parent club roster all year if they wanted to retain him. Ryan suffered an injury in spring training and was eventually returned to the Angels. Wilson began 2007 in Double-A and moved up to Triple-A Salt Lake in early July. Budde should be the next callup if something happened to Napoli or Mathis, but that would require a 40-man roster move.
As for Kennard, he’ll report to Double-A Arkansas. The Travs have been hot as of late and are positioning themselves for a possible wild-card slot in the post-season, so Kennard should help their bullpen. In 31 relief appearances (52.2 IP), Jeff had a 2.73 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 47:17 SO:BB ratio. He’s allowed only 3 HR which is a good sign, although he turns 26 on July 26. The age factor doesn’t seem to matter as much when it comes to setup relievers.
Meanwhile, the fan boards are still aflame with demands for the “big bat,” never mind that there are 29 other GMs out there who have yet to find a “big bat” on the market either. That fact seems to have escaped the people demanding yet again for Bill Stoneman to be fired because the Magic Wand has not yet been invented.