SEATTLE -- Free-agent catcher Kelly Shoppach officially signed a one-year contract with the Mariners on Thursday, while the club designated reliever Shawn Kelley for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster.
Shoppach, who played four years for manager Eric Wedge during his Cleveland days, gives the Mariners some needed depth behind the plate. The 32-year-old has been expected to sign with the club since taking a physical exam last week.
Thanks for the warm welcome from all the @mariners fans.Im really excited and can't wait to get to Seattle.— Kelly Shoppach (@ShopHouse10) February 8, 2013
Kelley's removal from the 40-man roster is more of a surprise, as he just signed a one-year, $935,000 contract last week to avoid an arbitration hearing. Kelley, 28, was 2-4 with a 3.25 ERA in 47 appearances last season, and has been with Seattle since being drafted in the 13th round in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft.
The Mariners now have 10 days to trade or release Kelley, who has enough service time to refuse an option to the Minor Leagues. If a team claims Kelley, they will pay his full salary. If he is released, the Mariners would owe him one-sixth of his salary, or just under $156,000. The right-hander has pitched in 120 games for Seattle over parts of the past four seasons, posting a career mark of 10-9 with a 3.52 ERA in 128 innings.
Shoppach has played with the Red Sox, Indians, Rays, Red Sox and Mets during his eight years in the Majors, posting a .226 batting average with 67 home runs and 207 RBIs in 536 games.
The right-handed-hitting backstop split last year between the Red Sox and Mets, hitting .250 with five homers and 17 RBIs in 158 at-bats with Boston before being traded in mid-August. He batted .203 with three home runs and 10 RBIs in 28 games with New York.
Shoppach gives the Mariners an experienced presence behind the plate to go with Jesus Montero after the club traded John Jaso to the A's last month in a three-way deal that brought slugger Michael Morse from the Nationals.
Montero was named Wednesday in a New York Daily News report as one of the players whose names were found in records at an anti-aging clinic in Miami that is being investigated for allegedly dispensing performance-enhancing substances. But Seattle had already been in the process of signing Shoppach, with general manager Jack Zduriencik indicating last month that he intended to add two experienced catchers to the mix before camp opened.
Ronny Paulino, another eight-year MLB veteran, signed a Minor League deal with an invitation to Major League camp two weeks ago, and he will also compete for a position in Spring Training.
The Mariners have also invited youngsters Mike Zunino, John Hicks and Jesus Sucre to their Major League camp, which starts Tuesday when pitchers and catchers report to Peoria, Ariz.
Shoppach's best years were during his time with Wedge in Cleveland from 2006-09, when he hit .245 in 301 games. He batted .261 with 21 home runs, 55 RBIs and an .865 OPS in '08, when he had a career-high 352 at-bats.
The catcher became the second American League player and eighth in Major League history to notch five extra-base hits in a game when he had three doubles and two home runs on July 30, 2009, against the Tigers.
Shoppach had some highlights with the Rays as well. He caught a no-hitter by Matt Garza in 2010, and led the AL in percentage of runners caught stealing in 2011 at 40.1. Though he struggled offensively that year while hitting just .176 in 87 regular-season games, Shoppach hit two home runs with five RBIs in the first game of the AL Division Series against the Rangers.
Over the past two seasons, Shoppach has thrown out 31.76 percent of attempted basestealers, the sixth-best rate in the Majors. Over the course of his career, he has combined to throw out 29 percent of attempted basestealers (89 of 306).