Red Sox sign Kelly Shoppach to replace Jason Varitek as backup catcher

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Kelly Shoppach was the Red Sox’s second-round pick in 2001 and debuted for them in 2005, but was traded to the Indians in the Coco Crisp swap that offseason and went on to establish himself as a solid backup catcher who crushes left-handed pitching.

Now he returns to Boston to fill that exact role, with Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com reporting that Shoppach has agreed to a one-year, $1.35 million deal with the Red Sox.

When pressed into extended duty Shoppach has struggled to hit above .200, but if limited to a platoon role versus left-handed pitching he’s capable of being very effective. Shoppach has been useless against righties during the past three seasons, hitting just .156, but he’s hit .262 with a .372 on-base percentage and .488 slugging percentage off lefties.

Starting catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia is a switch-hitter, but he’s been much better against righties (.265 AVG, .772 OPS) than lefties (.207 AVG, .604 OPS) during his career. Pairing him with Shoppach is a good fit and the price is certainly right.

Hideki Matsui thinks Shohei Otani should pitch and hit in MLB

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Yankees’ special advisor and former outfielder Hideki Matsui expects to help the club “convince or recruit” Japanese two-way star Shohei Otani, according to a report from MLB.com’s Deesha Thosar. The Yankees are currently viewed as the favorites to sign Otani, though there still figures to be plenty of competition for his services when he finally becomes eligible to enter Major League Baseball.

Matsui also told Thosar that while he hasn’t seen a player find success as a hybrid pitcher/slugger in the majors, he’s taken notice of Otani’s success in both areas. “He’s done well in Japan, so as a baseball fan I’m looking forward to how he’s going to do here in the Majors and in the U.S.,” Matsui said, later adding, “If [pitching and hitting is] something he wants to do, and the team wants it, then why not?”

Neither the Yankees nor any other suitor should be too concerned with Otani’s ability to translate his .332 batting average and 3.20 ERA to MLB — at least, not just yet. There are still a few roadblocks in his path to the major leagues, most notably the lack of approval from the Players Association. Per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman, the union doesn’t want to sign off on an agreement that would give the Nippon Ham Fighters a $20 million posting fee in exchange for Otani’s services. According to the posting system rules, Otani himself would be eligible to receive no more than a $4 million signing bonus.

The good news in all of this? The union agreed to reach a final decision by Monday, November 21, so there’s still a chance Major League Baseball will see the talented two-way player bring his unique skillset to the field in 2018.