Non-tender tango: Kelly Shoppach

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shoppach.jpgDecember 12th is the deadline for teams to decide whether to tender
contracts to unsigned players on their 40-man roster. With that in
mind, this is the first in a series regarding some of the most likely
non-tender candidates and where they may find new homes. Though this is
based on some logic, it’s mostly intended to be a fun exercise.




Kelly Shoppach – .214/.335/.399 with 12 home runs and 40 RBI in 271 at-bats (89 games) in 2009.



Why he’s a goner:



Shoppach, 29, made $1.95 million in 2009
and is in line for another raise in arbitration this winter. In
retrospect, the Indians might have been wise to cash in on his
impressive 2008 season (21 homers and an .865 OPS in 352 at-bats), as
they’ll be lucky to find a taker before December 12. Shoppach just
doesn’t fit into Cleveland’s plans anymore
with cheaper options like
Wyatt Toregas, Lou Marson (acquired in the Cliff Lee trade) and top
prospect Carlos Santana also in the pipeline.




With Victor Martinez catching a few games a week until he was
traded to Boston in July, Shoppach appeared in just 89 games in 2009.
He’s always carried the reputation as a hacker (a Mark Reynolds-like
37.8% career strikeout rate), leaving him at risk for a low batting
average. Predictably, his BABIP (batting average in balls in play)
plummeted from .359 in 2008 to .286 in 2009, resulting in a career-low
batting average of .214. Despite the down year, Shoppach’s walk rate
progressed for a second straight season. He has amassed a very
productive career OPS of .776 and a park-adjusted OPS+ of 105 over his
first 909 major league at-bats.




Here’s a quick comparison with Bengie Molina, arguably the most “prominent” catcher in free agency:



2007: .731 OPS in 497 at-bats (OPS+ 86)

2008: .767 OPS in 530 at-bats (OPS+ 98)

2009: .727 OPS in 491 at-bats (OPS+ 86)



And here’s Shoppach:



2007: .782 OPS in 161 at-bats (OPS+ 102)

2008: .865 OPS in 352 at-bats (OPS+ 128)

2009: .734 OPS in 271 at-bats (OPS+ 98)



Maybe
this is an unfair comparison with Shoppach’s limited sample size, but
the 35-year-old Molina is poised to make several million dollars in
free agency while Shoppach, who is at least Molina’s equal defensively
and five years younger to boot, isn’t. Food for thought, anyway.




Possible fits:



Blue Jays: Though the Jays will offer Rod Barajas arbitration, general manager Alex Anthopoulos says the 34-year-old catcher will probably find a multi-year offer elsewhere.
Earlier this week we learned that the Jays
have interest in free agent
Yorvit Torrealba
. They were also, albeit briefly, connected in trade
talks to the Diamondbacks’ Chris Snyder. Prospect J.P Arencibia had a
tough season with Triple-A Las Vegas, so he may need some extra
seasoning in the minors.




Mets: Brian Schneider is a
free agent, leaving Omir Santos and young Josh Thole as rather
unsatisfactory in-house options at backstop. Not surprisingly, the Mets
have been rumored to have interest in nearly every catcher available
via free agency and trade.




Royals: The Royals declined Miguel Olivo’s $3.3 million option
earlier this month and John Buck will likely join Shoppach among those
non-tendered in December. General manager Dayton Moore
wants to make
defense a priority behind the plate after the Royals led the majors in
passed balls and wild pitches in 2009
. Shoppach had six passed balls in
672 innings last season. Olivo led the majors with 10 in 846 innings.




Where he end should up:



I could see Shoppach landing in any
of the situations above, but I have a hard time believing the Mets will
commit the kind of money it will take to sign Molina, Barajas or Olivo
when they have so many other areas of need on their roster. This leaves
them looking at low-cost, high-upside options like Shoppach, creative
trades, such as swapping Luis Castillo for another bad contract
(Snyder), or, quite possibly, going with the status quo. Signing
Shoppach to a bargain contract off a subpar season would allow Thole to
continue to develop in the minors while thankfully taking the bulk of
the playing time away from Santos, who shouldn’t be starting on a team
that intends to compete for a playoff spot next season.

Settling the Scores: Tuesday’s results

CLEVELAND, OH -  JULY 26: The Cleveland Indians celebrate after Francisco Lindor #12 of the Cleveland Indians hit a walk-off RBI single to defeat the Washington Nationals at Progressive Field on July 26, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Indians defeated the Nationals 7-6. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jason Miller/Getty Images
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The Nationals took a 6-4 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning at Progressive Field on Tuesday night against the Indians, but Jonathan Papelbon couldn’t hold on.

Gio Gonzalez put together 6 1/3 solid innings, ultimately yielding three runs (two earned) on five hits and a pair of walks with four strikeouts. Even better, the Nats’ offense chased Indians starter and AL All-Star Danny Salazar after four innings.

Papelbon walked Jose Ramirez to kick off the bottom half of the ninth, then served up an RBI double to Tyler Naquin to make it a 6-5 game. Chris Gimenez moved Naquin to third base with a sacrifice bunt, but first baseman Ryan Zimmerman‘s throw to second baseman Daniel Murphy went wide, allowing Naquin to score and Gimenez to advance to second base. The Nats opted to then intentionally walk Lonnie Chisenhall. With Rajai Davis batting, third baseman Anthony Rendon charged towards the plate as he reacted to Davis bunting, but the bunt ended up going over Rendon’s head, loading the bases for Jason Kipnis. Nats manager Dusty Baker brought in lefty Oliver Perez with a lefty followed by a switch-hitter due up.

Kipnis lined out, giving the Nationals light at the end of the tunnel. Francisco Lindor squelched that with a game-winning RBI single to right field, securing the come-from-behind 7-6 victory for the Tribe. The win halts the Indians’ three-game losing skid, improving their record to 57-41. They are 5.5 games ahead of the second-place Tigers in the AL Central now.

Box scores.

Tigers 9, Red Sox 8
Cardinals 3, Mets 2 (Game 1)
Mets 3, Cardinals 1 (Game 2)
Athletics 6, Rangers 3
Marlins 5, Phillies 0
Yankees 6, Astros 3
Brewers 9, Diamondbacks 4
Giants 9, Reds 7
Angles 13, Royals 0
Rockies 6, Orioles 3
Mariners 7, Pirates 4
Blue Jays 7, Padres 6 (12 innings)
White Sox 3, Cubs 0
Indians 7, Nationals 6
Braves 2, Brewers 0
Dodgers 3, Rays 2

Chapman has trouble remembering convo with Cubs management about off-field behavior

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CHICAGO — Star closer Aroldis Chapman joined the Cubs on Tuesday, arriving to a mixed reaction in Chicago and saying he couldn’t remember what management told him about off-field expectations and behavior.

After Chapman’s awkward introductory news conference, Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein insisted Chapman understands what the Cubs expect of him after an offseason domestic violence incident.

When the Cubs announced the trade with the New York Yankees on Monday, the team released a statement from Chairman Tom Ricketts saying they were aware of his 29-game suspension to begin the season under Major League Baseball’s new domestic violence policy.

Ricketts said he and Epstein talked by phone with Chapman before the deal was completed and “shared with him the high expectations we set for our players,” adding that Chapman was “comfortable” with them.

But when asked repeatedly about that phone conversation before Tuesday’s game against the crosstown White Sox, Chapman said through an interpreter that he couldn’t recall details because he was taking a nap at the time the call came in.

The question was asked several more times. A Cubs spokesman once asked the question himself to the interpreter, coach Henry Blanco.

“It’s been a long day,” Chapman said. “Trying to remember.”

Asked again several minutes later during the group interview if he could now remember what Ricketts said, Chapman shook his head.

“I still don’t remember,” he said in Spanish.

Epstein called it a misunderstanding and that Chapman was “pretty nervous” as he faced seven cameras and more than two dozen reporters.

“I was on the call, Tom was on the call, Aroldis was on the call and Barry Praver, his agent, was on the call. It happened and it was real,” Epstein said before the Cubs’ 3-0 loss to the White Sox.

Chapman was accused of choking his girlfriend and firing eight gunshots in the garage of a Florida home in October. The woman later changed her story and no charges were filed.

“You learn from the mistakes that you make,” Chapman said.

The case caused the Los Angeles Dodgers to back out of an offseason trade for Chapman. Cincinnati eventually traded him to the Yankees, and after his suspension, the 28-year-old Cuban converted 20 of 21 save chances for New York.

The Cubs have long boasted of stocking their roster with high-character players, helping earn the “lovable losers” label they’ve carried for decades since their last World Series title in 1908.

But the Cubs (59-40) have retooled their roster under Epstein and have the best record in the major leagues despite Tuesday’s loss in which Chapman didn’t pitch. Chapman, who threw a 105 mph fastball last week, fills perhaps the team’s largest hole as he replaces Hector Rondon as closer.

The Cubs sent four players to the Yankees, including shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres, to get one of the game’s top relievers. Epstein said they wouldn’t have made the deal if not for the phone call he and Ricketts had with Chapman.

“Tom laid out the exact same standards that he lays out to everyone in spring training,” Epstein said. “He said, extremely clearly, `Look, Aroldis, I tell all the players this in spring training and it’s important you hear it and I need to hear from you on this. We expect our players to behave. We hold our players to a very high standard for their behavior off the field. And we need to know you can meet that standard.’

“Aroldis said `I understand. Absolutely, I can.'”

The Cubs activated Chapman before Tuesday’s game and designated left-hander Clayton Richard for assignment.

Reaction to Chapman’s acquisition in Chicago has been tepid. While there were supportive fans on talk radio, the Chicago Tribune carried a front-page column Tuesday criticizing the move. The back of the Chicago Sun-Times tabloid read “Spin City” over a picture of Epstein.

Chapman said he expected a “good reaction” from Cubs fans. He was also asked during the 20-minute meeting with reporters in the visiting dugout at U.S. Cellular Field if we would consider working with organizations looking to prevent domestic violence. Chapman said no.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon defended Chapman.

“He did do a suspension, he has talked about it, he’s shown remorse,” Maddon said. “Everybody else has the right to judge him as a good or bad person. That’s your right.

I want to get to know Aroldis. I think he could be a very significant member and he’s got the potential, yes, to throw the last out of the World Series. And if he does, I promise you I will embrace him.”