If the Internet is to be believed -- and I see no reason to think it shouldn't, all of the time -- Jack Zduriencik hinted over the weekend that the next week could bring a significant move, for the Seattle Mariners. It's no secret that the Mariners aren't finished with their offseason, and while "significant move" makes people daydream about the likes of Giancarlo Stanton, what's more likely is that the Mariners are closing in on a starting pitcher, or a backup catcher. Maybe you don't think signing a backup catcher would count as a significant move. There are only 25 roster spots on each team. Every major-league move is a significant move! You have too restrictive a definition of significant!
For some time, now, the Mariners have been linked to free-agent catcher Kelly Shoppach. Shoppach remains unsigned, he has a history with Eric Wedge in Cleveland, and when the Mariners signed catcher Ronny Paulino, they openly admitted they were still searching for backstop depth. It's beginning to feel inevitable that Shoppach will officially become a Mariner in the coming days, and I'm definitely not above taking things for granted, hence this blog post.
Shoppach is a catcher, and a free agent, and right-handed, and 32. Firefox wants his name to be Kelly Shopaholic, which is more than a little emasculating, but he compensates by being able to grow a really thick beard. In December 2011 he signed for a year and $1.35 million and was subsequently all right, so we'd presumably be looking at similar terms. Shoppach wouldn't cost a lot, and you don't need me to tell you that, because Shoppach would be coming as a backup catcher.
Shoppach was once a pretty good Red Sox prospect, but he established himself with the Indians, playing under Eric Wedge from 2006-2009. Said Wedge in September 2009:
"The way you play is always going to affect your future," Wedge said of Shoppach. "The biggest thing we need to see from him is consistency.
"He knows very well what he needs to do. The test for him — if he wants to be more than a backup catcher — is to do that. I think Kelly has the ability to be more than a backup. I really do."
Back then, Eric Wedge wanted for Shoppach to be more than a backup catcher. Now Eric Wedge would be happy with Shoppach just being a backup catcher. Nuts to you, consistency and improvement. Shoppach might've disappointed Wedge to some degree as a younger guy, but now that he's an older guy, the expectations are lower, and so it would be easier for Shoppach to satisfy. He'd be a backup, and he'd be willing to be a backup.
For what it's worth, Shoppach expressed disappointment when Wedge was let go by the Indians. The two seem to have more of a positive relationship than a negative relationship, and while Shoppach isn't renowned for his defense, maybe Wedge would prefer the inadequate defender he knows to the inadequate defender he doesn't. Shoppach isn't a nightmare, and after all, he did last under Wedge for four seasons.
There are some things for you to know about Kelly Shoppach, the baseball player. He's attempted one stolen base, and it was successful, and it looked like this:
He's been much more productive against left-handed pitchers than right-handed pitchers, much like Paulino, and much like Jesus Montero. He is a power hitter, and not a contact hitter. Shoppach debuted in 2005. Since 2005, 662 different players have batted at least 500 times. Shoppach's strikeout rate is the highest out of all of them, at 33.4%. Shoppach's contact rate is the lowest out of all of them, at 63.8%. Shoppach has, historically, made less-frequent contact than Miguel Olivo. He's made about the same rate of contact as Carlos Peguero. Shoppach isn't an over-aggressive hacker, so he's easier to watch, but there are similarities in results. Shoppach is able to draw the occasional walk, and he has a knack for getting hit by pitches, but he strikes out like a motherfucker. He's got Mark Reynolds beat. He's got everyone beat.
Defensively, Shoppach is about as good as he looks like. He has a pretty strong arm, but he has just decent stolen-base numbers. He appears to be below average when it comes to blocking pitches, and he appears to be below average when it comes to framing pitches. Matthew' research suggests he's a better framer than John Jaso, but not by a lot, and the research is relatively under-explored. It's likely that Shoppach, in the field, is more below average than above average.
Shoppach would be an easy piece to get, and he'd be an easy piece to move out of the way in the event of Mike Zunino. While a Mariner, Shoppach would strike out and hit dingers, and Zunino could try to learn something from Ronny Paulino in triple-A. Or Paulino could try to learn something from Mike Zunino, I don't know, people will surprise you. Shoppach's just a backup catcher, and Paulino's just a backup catcher, and these aren't the guys who are going to make all the difference in 2013, probably, unless we really suck at figuring out who makes all the difference. Which is not impossible.
Maybe you're surprised by the idea of the Mariners replacing a below-average defensive catcher with a below-average defensive catcher. But this wouldn't be about the Mariners preferring Kelly Shoppach to John Jaso. This would be about the Mariners preferring Kelly Shoppach and the John Jaso trade return to John Jaso and whatever a small amount of money could buy. The Mariners are quite pleased to have Michael Morse, and if they were going to treat Jaso like a part-time player, it made sense to move him, and it would make sense to bring in a backup who deserves to be a backup, who no one thinks of as a potential everyday guy anymore.
I just had to check to make sure the Mariners hadn't signed Kelly Shoppach while I was writing this post. Kelly Shoppach hasn't signed with the Mariners yet, and he might not ever, but it sure seems like it's in the cards. This one seems predictable, and if Shoppach does don a Mariners uniform, prepare for dingers and whiffs. Like you've been doing with the Mariners for years, except with dingers.