Rays acquire catcher Shoppach

Updated: December 1, 2009, 8:13 PM ET
By Buster Olney | ESPN The Magazine

The Tampa Bay Rays acquired veteran catcher Kelly Shoppach from the Cleveland Indians for a player to be named later.

Shoppach, 29, hit .214 with homers in 89 games for the Indians in 2009, a decline from the strong season he put up in 2008, when he hit .261 with 21 homers, with a .517 slugging percentage.

"You can look at [last season] any way you want," Shoppach said. "Obviously, it was a disappointing year for me. Of course I would have liked to play better. I think everyone would have liked to play better."

Shoppach earned $1.95 million in 2009 for the Indians, and because he's arbitration-eligible, he is in line for a significant raise. Cleveland is rebuilding and has other catching options, having acquired Lou Marson in the Cliff Lee trade with Philadelphia, and so the Indians have indicated a willingness in this offseason to deal Shoppach for a second-line prospect.

"This is most about our young players," Cleveland general manager Mark Shapiro said in announcing the deal on Tuesday. "We are excited about giving them an opportunity to play. It's an area of strength for us."

Rival executives privately had speculated that if the Indians were unable to move Shoppach, Cleveland might not have tendered a contract to the veteran catcher.

"Kelly's a guy who has great talent and the ability to be a complete catcher," Shapiro said. "He calls a good game, he throws well and, obviously, he hits for power. I know he strikes out a lot, but he's got great power. The more contact he makes the more a run-producer he will be."

Dioner Navarro was the Rays' regular catcher in 2009, but he struggled, batting .218, amid questions about his conditioning. Late in the season, the Rays acquired Gregg Zaun from the Baltimore Orioles, and Zaun played well, hitting .287.

Shoppach's acquisition should give the Rays flexibility in negotiating with both Navarro, who is arbitration-eligible, and Zaun, who is a free agent.

"Obviously, it's an opportunity for me to compete now rather than the rebuilding process that Cleveland was going to do," Shoppach said during a telephone conference call. "Ultimately that is what I want to do. Help a team win."

Buster Olney covers Major League Baseball for ESPN The Magazine. Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Buster Olney | email

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine