The week after Thanksgiving is Open Season for bargain hunters. Holiday shoppers all over the country flock to Best Buy and Target in search of discounted products they don’t actually need.
As the spending surge tapers down, it is clear that the shrewdest customer of the last few days was Tampa Bay Rays GM Andrew Friedman, who acquired Kelly Shoppach from the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday.
In doing so, Friedman bought himself a new starting catcher for the low, low price of a player to be named later (PTBNL).
A glance at Shoppach’s numbers last year might have you wondering if Friedman would have been better off shopping at RadioShack. While 12 homers and 40 RBI aren’t bad for 89 games, his abysmal batting average (.214) and slugging percentage (.399) were appalling, even for a catcher.
But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Shoppach is just one season removed from hitting 21 homers and earning an .865 OPS. The .517 slugging percentage he posted in 2008 was higher than Victor Martinez has ever achieved in a full season.
It’s no surprise that the Indians traded Shoppach. Lou Marson and Carlos Santana—Cleveland’s catchers of the future—are poised to make splashes in 2010, it made sense to try to move Shoppach and his salary (he’s set to make about $2 million next year, plus an arbitration raise).
What’s disheartening is that Mark Shapiro gave him up at such a low price. Shoppach couldn’t have fetched an elite prospect, but surely we could have gotten more than a PTBNL?
This is my only real problem with Shapiro. I trust his judgment about when to make deals and he has a knack for finding good players amongst ranks of mediocre ones (does Michael Brantley ring a bell?), but he isn’t very good at maximizing his players’ trade values. I’m still waiting to hear why we didn’t get Kyle Drabek or Dominic Brown from the Phillies in the Cliff Lee trade and how we sent Victor Martinez to Boston without demanding Clay Buchholz or Michael Bowden in return.
A PTBNL isn’t necessarily a throwaway player, so there’s a possibility that this trade could end up helping the Tribe in the long run. But it’s a slap in the face to Cleveland fans that the front office has literally nothing to show for trading one of the few familiar faces left on the team.
It’s not as though the Rays have no one to offer. Tampa Bay is overflowing with promising young pitchers. Surely we could have at least acquired Andy Sonnanstine.
The Rays aren’t the only team looking for a catcher; the Mariners, Mets, and Blue Jays are all in the hunt for a backstop, just to name a few. Maybe one of those teams would have been willing to make a concrete offer. Did Shapiro not think to consult other bidders before closing the auction?
Sure, it’s fitting to give another team a discount this time of year. But selling players at drastically reduced prices won’t make Happy Holidays in Cleveland.