Rays Get a Huge Upgrade in Shoppach

December 2, 2009 at 1:13 am 2 comments

Kelly Shoppach

The Tampa Bay Rays received 29 year old arbitration eligible catcher Kelly Shoppach today from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for a player to be named later.  As long as the player to be named later is not one of the Rays top prospects this is a steal for the Rays.

The Rays are taking Shoppach on the heals of a down season in which he hit .214/.335/.399 with a wOBA of .329 and 1.7 WAR, still better than what their most played catcher Dioner Navarro did (.218/.261/.322 with a wOBA of .258 and -0.1 WAR).

In 2008, Shoppach hit to the tune of .261/.348/.517 with a wOBA of .370 and an amazing 3.6 WAR.  Navarro made the AL all-star team and hit .295/.349/.407 with a wOBA of .340 and 2.7 WAR.  Weird how the inferior player is the all-star here.

In thier careers, Shoppach is a .241/.327/.449 with a wOBA of .338, 6.5 WAR, and an OPS+ of 105 in 1043 plate appearances while Navarro is a .254/.312/.364 with a wOBA of .297, 5.2 WAR, and an OPS+ of 78 in 1822 plate appearances.  Remeber, an OPS+ of 100 is league average.

Do I think Shoppach will return to his 2008 form?  No, nor will Navarro.  But I do think he has a better shot at repeating it than Navarro does.  Oh, and Shoppach is a better defensive catcher in almost every area.

What the Rays get in Shoppach is a catcher that can handle his position and will hit above league average, which is amazing for a catcher to do.  While he will strike out a lot (37.3% in his career) he will hit for a lot of power (career .208 ISO) and take a good number of walks (career 8.8%) and work the count (3.93 pitches per plate appearance).  Navarro does have Shoppach beat in K% (14.6%) but loses in the other categories with a career ISO of .111, career walk rate of 7.6%, and sees 3.77 pitches per plate appearance.  Shoppach, on last year’s numbers alone was worth 1.8 wins more than Navarro and I think the Rays can easily take that number to the bank again in 2010.

The Rays have been looking for creative ways to shed payroll while upgrading the roster at the same time.  Both catchers are arb-eligible and will make $2M-$3M next season, leaving Navarro a potential non-tender candidate, even at the young age of 25.  Acquiring Shoppach and potentially dropping Navarro is a prime example of doing just what the Rays are all about.  This move eximplifies Andrew Friedman’s ability to properly evaluate talent and value.  This is just one of the many great moves Friedman and company have made since taking over.  Don’t be surprised to see the Rays make a few more moves like this and then come into 2010 with their best team ever on the field.

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