TORONTO -- The Blue Jays decided against exercising Bengie Molina's $7.5 million option for 2007, and the catcher filed for free agency on Tuesday. Toronto bought out Molina's contract for $500,000.
Molina signed a one-year deal that included a mutual option with the Jays prior to last season, but indicated that his original intention was to play for Toronto for more than just one season.
"When I came over here, I signed because I wanted to stay for three or four years," Molina said during the final week of the regular season. "That's what I came here for. It doesn't look like that right now, but I'm open to discussion. I don't see why we can't discuss something else."
Molina, 32, made $4.5 million in 2006, and it's likely that his asking price will be too steep for the Blue Jays. It's more probable that Toronto will try to re-sign catcher Gregg Zaun, who is also a free agent this offseason and made just $1 million last year. Zaun officially filed for free agency on Monday.
"We didn't get [Molina] with the understanding that he was going to be a lifetime Blue Jay," general manager J.P. Ricciardi said in September. "But if there's an option there and we can work it out, we'll work it out. It's something that's there for us. We haven't ruled that out. It happens all the time."
Molina hit .284 with a career-high 19 home runs and 57 RBIs in 117 games in 2006. He also established career bests in total bases (202) and slugging percentage (.467). He collected 123 hits in 433 at-bats, the most he'd had in either category since 2000, when he had 133 hits in 473 at-bats.
The Blue Jays have exclusive negotiating rights with all of their free agents -- Ted Lilly, Justin Speier and Frank Catalanotto each filed on Saturday -- until Nov. 12, when other clubs can begin discussing potential contracts. Under the new labor agreement, there are no deadlines for players to re-sign with their former team.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.