Shoppach excited about deal with Rays

Shoppach excited about deal with Rays

ST. PETERSBURG -- Kelly Shoppach is now in the fold for three seasons after the Rays locked up the catcher to a two-year deal Tuesday worth $5.55 million, with a club option for a third season.

The Rays bought out Shoppach's final two years of arbitration by agreeing to pay him $2.25 million for the 2010 season and $3 million for '11. The club option of $3.2 million for the third season -- if exercised -- would buy out the first season he is eligible for free agency; the buyout for the third year is worth $300,000. The deal also contains escalators that could bump his option by $800,000 and the buyout by $200,000.

"As we stated when we acquired Kelly, we liked him and we felt like he fit us very well," said executive vice president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman. "It was something that when we acquired him, we didn't necessarily do it with the thought that we would sign him to this contract. But when we started talking to his agent and going through conversations, we explored this rout and fortunately for everyone, there was an overlap. And we feel like it was a deal that was in everyone's best interest and it moved fairly quickly from there."

Shoppach said his motivation in signing the deal came primarily from his desire to gain financial security for his family.

"That's my No. 1 goal as a dad and a husband," said Shoppach in a conference call. "That is all of our goals to take care of our families. If you get an opportunity to do that, you take advantage of that opportunity.

"I understand the other side of doing that. But as we all know there are no guarantees in this game. I couldn't let an opportunity like that pass me by. ... I just have an opportunity to sleep a little better at night knowing I'll be able to take care of my family -- at least the next couple of years."

Tuesday's deal sends out a strong message by the Rays about their feelings toward the 29-year-old catcher they acquired in December from the Indians for a player to be named, whom turned out to be Triple-A right-hander Mitch Talbot. At the very least, Shoppach will serve in a platoon role with incumbent receiver Dioner Navarro.

Navarro signed a one-year, $2.1 million deal with Tampa Bay before the non-tender deadline in December. Whether the Rays opt to keep both catchers appears to be one of the puzzles to be solved in the future, but for now, Friedman said the club is happy to have both.

"We feel like both Shop and Navvy are better players than how they performed in 2009, and we feel like we've got a very good problem on our hands, and I fully expect it will play out over the course of the 2010 season," Friedman said.

Friedman noted that the use of the two catchers would likely be determined on most nights by pitching matchups. He also touted the merits of the tandem giving the Rays quality depth at a demanding physical position. Friedman said he reached out to Navarro by telling his agent about the team's intentions with Shoppach. Friedman then complimented Navarro for being a consummate team player interested only in winning.

Shoppach sounded excited about being on the Rays and eager to join the team for Spring Training. He called Tampa Bay a "very, very talented team" and said he felt like he had an opportunity to "fit in a little bit" with the club and that he hopes he can help the Rays again succeed.

Shoppach spent most of the past four seasons working alongside All-Star Victor Martinez handling Cleveland's young pitching staff. Shoppach didn't earn an abundance of playing time until 2008, when an injury to Martinez thrust him into a regular role. He responded with 21 home runs and 55 RBIs in 112 games while batting .261.

Those numbers all took a drop during an injury-shortened 2009 campaign. Limited to 89 games and 327 plate appearances, Shoppach hit just .214 with 12 homers and 40 RBIs while striking out 98 times. He threw out 15 of 64 (.234) would-be base stealers.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.