The Shoppach deal is purely a product of finances, as the Tribe catcher originally acquired in a deal sending Coco Crisp to Boston was likely going to pull in an arbitration haul of around $3 million. The Indians, with a system deep in catchers, could afford to let the free-swinger move on to other pastures.
Shoppach became a hot commodity after the 2008 season, when the slugging catcher became the Tribe starter thanks to an injury-riddled season to Tribe backstop Victor Martinez. Shoppach crushed 21 homers, 21 doubles and had 58 RBI in only 353 at bats. He also struck out a rather impressive 133 times, which has been Shoppach's knock over his career.
Shoppach calls a good game and has a howitzer for an arm. During Shoppach's two seasons as a strict back-up, Shoppach threw out a monster 36% of total base stealers. This dropped to 21% during his offensive breakout year in 2008, and 23% in 2009. Still, Shoppach is an able backstop who has some pop in his bat.
He struggled offensively in 2009, limping in at .214, while striking out 98 times. Obviously the Indians were hoping for a continuation and an improvement offensively, but didn't get it. Still, don't let the numbers fool you. Shoppach is a solid catcher, and will be a good addition for a Rays team looking for a leader behind the plate. Shoppach is a scrappy player, and really is the type of guy you want on a young club.
So why did the Indians deal him? Lou Marson, one of the players acquired in the Cliff Lee deal, is major league ready. Marson has no real power, but is a solid defensive backstop. Many compare the lighter hitting Marson to Jason Kendall, although Marson projects to have more power down the road. In reality, Marson will just be a place holder for Eastern League MVP Carlos Santana.
Santana is projected to be the Tribe starter in 2011, but don't be surprised if he makes an appearance at some point in 2010. He's likely ready now, but the Indians have the time and players to allow him some time to develop.
Who might the Indians get in return for Shoppach? It's hard to tell. There's a lot of speculation that he's not going to bring the Indians much, but I wonder. The Indians were expected to Non-Tender Shoppach, which means the Rays could have had him for nothing. Obviously, there were other teams interested in the under-appreciated catcher. Could there have been a bit of a bidding war for Shoppach? It's possible, and if so, expect the Tribe to get a decent prospect, even if in the lower minors.
Have a good career Kelly Shoppach, you will be missed. At least until that famous guitar player makes his debut.