At the top of the Tampa Bay Rays Christmas List this year was the catcher position. A position that saw their backstop Dioner Navarro reach the all star game only one year ago was held accountable for dismal numbers this year. Christmas came early for the Rays as they landed Cleveland Indians catcher Kelly Shoppach in a trade for a player to be named later. Lets see where this new addition leaves us.
Dioner Navarro- Even after having a down year last year, the 25 year old switch hitting catcher still finds himself at the top of the Rays depth chart. Rightfully so. It is not the end of the world for a player to have a down year and with Navy being only 25 it is no where near time to jump ship. How easy we forget that his 2008 campaign he hit .295/.349/.407 which are legit numbers for a catcher. Navarro is eligible for arbitration and would be most likely be making 3 mil shall he return with the Rays. The price may be a little high but if Navy can return to his 2008 form it is money well spent.
Greg Zaun- Zaun another switch hitting catcher the Rays could possibly strap the gear on this year is now 38 years old. The Rays were his ninth team last season when they claimed him off waivers. With that being said the journeyman proved to me his love for the game. Zaun provided clutch hits for the Rays last year when he stepped in at opportune moments. The Rays declined a 2 million dollar option on Zaun although it is likely he will find his way back to the Trop next season.
Kelly Shoppach- Much like the Rays Dioner Navarro, Shoppach had his best year in 2008 while filling in for his injured teammate Victor Martinez. Shoppach led American League catchers in homers two years ago with 21. Though the only word that can describe his season last year is " disappointing", there is only upside for this kid. He is a very promising player who not only calls a good game but hits for power. Shoppach's main flaw is the number of times he strikes out each game but if he can once again lead all AL catchers in long-balls we will quickly forget about all the K's.
These three candidates make for an interesting position to follow this year. In any case the Rays have three catchers who each bring something to the team that the others don't. Navy a switch hitter is still young and full of potential. Zaun a veteran not only brings his leadership to the table but can deliver big hits in the clutch as we saw flashes of last season. Then there is the new guy Shoppach. The potential he holds in that right handed bat of his is enormous and if he can find the power he had in 2008 the Rays might have just found gold.
It goes without saying that the Rays most likely will only keep two catchers on there roster but that doesnt mean all three wont see action in a Rays uniform sometime this season.