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)

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.

Video: Jonathan Lucroy who? Roberto Perez homers twice in World Series opener for the Indians

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 25:  Roberto Perez #55 of the Cleveland Indians hits a three-run home run during the eighth inning against the Chicago Cubs in Game One of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
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Back in July, then-Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy vetoed a trade that would have sent him to the Indians, helping the club make a significant upgrade behind the plate after losing Yan Gomes to an injury. At the time, Roberto Perez had only played in 11 games, batting .043. Gomes had hit .165 before his injury, and Chris Gimenez batted .202 over 42 games. It was not much of a logical leap to think the Indians would eventually falter due to a lack of production at the catching position.

But here the Indians are in the World Series facing the Cubs. In Game 1 on Tuesday night, Perez — who finished the season with a .183 average and three home runs in 184 plate appearances — drilled a pair of home runs, accounting for four of the six runs the Indians would score in a shutout win over the Cubs.

Perez’s first blast was a solo that that just cleared the left field fence at Progressive Field, coming on an 0-1 fastball from starter Jon Lester. That padded the Indians’ lead to 3-0.

The second homer put the game away, as he punished reliever Hector Rondon for hanging a 2-2 slider with two runners on base, slugging this one enough to clear the left field fence by plenty. That doubled the Indians’ lead to 6-0, the score by which they would eventually win.

Perez is the first catcher to homer twice in a World Series game since Gary Carter did it for the Mets against the Red Sox in the 1986 World Series. Perez is the first Indian to homer twice in the same playoff game since Jim Thome in the 1999 ALDS against the Red Sox.

Corey Kluber dazzles as Indians blank Cubs 6-0 in Game 1 of the World Series

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 25:  Corey Kluber #28 of the Cleveland Indians throws a pitch against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning in Game One of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

From the moment Kris Bryant struck out looking for the second out of the first inning in Game 1 of the World Series, the Cubs knew Indians starter Corey Kluber brought his A-game and that they were in for a long night. Bryant was Kluber’s second strikeout victim in as many batters and he would go on to strike out eight batters through the first three innings, setting a World Series record.

The Indians, meanwhile, gave Kluber an early cushion, scoring twice in the bottom of the first inning. Francisco Lindor hit a two-out single, then stole second base against starter Jon Lester. Lester proceeded to walk Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana to load the bases. Jose Ramirez brought one run home with an infield single to the left of the pitcher’s mound. The lefty then hit Brandon Guyer with a pitch to force in another run, giving the Indians a 2-0 lead.

The Indians scored one more run in the fourth inning when catcher Roberto Perez snuck a solo home run over the fence in left field, victimizing Lester yet again.

The Cubs struggled to get any kind of momentum going, wasting a leadoff double by Ben Zobrist in the second inning and a two-out double by Kyle Schwarber in the fourth. Through six innings, Kluber yielded only three hits with zero walks and nine strikeouts. He took the mound to start the seventh but departed after Zobrist led off with a single to left field.

Reliever and ALCS MVP Andrew Miller entered the game, but the Cubs seemed to have a better time against him. Schwarber drew a walk and Javier Baez singled to left, loading the bases. At the very least, it seemed, Miller would give up at least one run, if not two. The average team scored two runs with the bases loaded and no outs, according to Baseball Prospectus. But Miller showed why he was named the MVP of the ALCS, getting Willson Contreras to fly out to shallow center. Schwarber thought the ball would drop, so he was way off the second base bag, but center fielder Rajai Davis didn’t notice and fired home to ensure a run didn’t score. Despite the mistake, Miller rebounded by striking out Addison Russell and David Ross to escape the inning with no damage done

Miller returned to the mound for the eighth inning for his second inning of work. After getting Dexter Fowler to fly out, he walked Bryant. Miller got Anthony Rizzo to fly out to shallow center, but Zobrist singled to center to put runners on first and third with two outs. On his 46th pitch of the night, Miller struck out Schwarber to escape the inning.

Perez decided to double the Indians’ lead to 6-0 in the bottom of the eighth. Cubs reliever Justin Grimm walked Guyer and allowed a single to Lonnie Chisenhall, forcing manager Joe Maddon to replace him with Hector Rondon. Rondon hung a 2-2 slider and Perez crushed it, this time clearing the fence by plenty for a three-run homer. He’s the first catcher with two homers in a World Series game since Gary Carter in 1986.

Closer Cody Allen, who thought he was going to be used in a save situation, took over in the top of the ninth. After striking out Baez, Contreras doubled to right field. Allen then struck out Russell as well as pinch-hitter Miguel Montero to end the game in a 6-0 victory for the Indians.

Game 2 of the World Series will start an hour earlier than usual on Wednesday due to forecasted inclement weather late at night. Jake Arrieta will make the start for the Cubs opposite the Indians’ Trevor Bauer.