Tampa Bay Rays Acquire C Kelly Shoppach From Cleveland Indians

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Tampa Bay Rays Acquire C Kelly Shoppach From Cleveland Indians
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Late Tuesday afternoon, the Cleveland Indians traded C Kelly Shoppach to the Tampa Bay Rays for a player to be named later or cash.

Shoppach, 29, was a former top prospect and International League All-Star with the Boston Red Sox organization. Throughout his Major League career, almost entirely with Cleveland, he's hit .241 with a .776 OPS. He is arbitration eligible this offseason, and the Rays are expected to give him a raise from his $1.95 million he made in '09.

Shop comes into the Rays organization as a hitting catcher, seeing as his defense is worse than current starting catcher Dioner Navarro's, if only slightly (27% caught stealing rate compared to Navi's 30%). In front of the plate, however, Shop knows how to take a walk and hit with consistency, something that Navarro seemed to lose his grip on in 2009 after his All-Star year in 2008.

Throughout his career, the righty Shoppach has tormented left-handed pitchers, batting for a .999 OPS in a small sample size of 258 plate appearances.

Shop was traded from Boston to Cleveland in 2006 in the deal that brought OF Coco Crisp to the Red Sox, where he was primarily a back-up for C Victor Martinez.

When Shoppach filled in for an injured Martinez in 2008, he led American League catchers with 21 homers, and the Indians were expecting big things from him in the 2009 campaign. However, he batted just .214 with 12 homers and 40 RBI in 89 games, striking out 89 times.

From a Tampa Bay standpoint, the obvious question post-trade becomes: Who is going to be the backstop for the Rays in 2010?

With Navarro slumping, C Sean Riggans perpetually hurt, and C Gregg Zaun and C Michel Hernandez out of town, the corps are a little muddled. While Shop does bring a fresh new face to the mix, his defense leaves much to be desired, and his power against lefties is what makes him so valuable.

Zaun is still rumored to be being pursued by the Rays for a back-up/platoon man like he was in 2009, so a Shop/Zaunbie platoon is not out of the question. But then what to do with Navi, only a year removed from an All-Star berth? Only time will tell.

The PTBNL from the Rays has to be announced by Dec. 20; a small-name pitcher makes the most sense regarding Cleveland's needs. A corresponding 40-man roster move for the arrival of Shoppach will be announced later Tuesday night.

EDIT: RP Jeff Bennett has been designated for assignment by the Rays to make room for Shoppach on the 40-man roster, but still no word on who the PTBNL is.

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