Shoppach to Mariners, Finally
The seemingly inevitable deal is apparently done. We still may not know exactly how to measure catcher defense, but we know who’ll likely be doing some defending for the 2013 Mariners: veteran back-up Kelly Shoppach.
Unlike the Ronny Paulino deal, I’d assume this is a major league contract, meaning that the M’s have another 40-man decision to make. Yoervis Medina may sleep a little less soundly tonight, and I can’t imagine Carlos Peguero is safe either. They could also choose to drop someone a little more prospect-y but further from the majors – Julio Morban or Francisco Martinez come to mind.
Shoppach is a three-true-outcome hitter – he couples Olivo-like contact and with above-average power with decidedly non-Olivo-like walk rates. His batting average and strikeout rates are going to require some patience, but he’s put up very nice wOBA’s in his short stint in Boston last year and in more regular duty in Cleveland. His manager with the Indians was Eric Wedge, and it’s easy to assume that Wedge had a hand in picking Shoppach. Given the talk this winter about changing the nature of the veteran presence in the clubhouse, it makes sense that they’d find some guys they’re familiar with.
His defense is a bit harder to get a handle on. He’s generally rated poorly in the defensive metrics at fangraphs, where some solid work throwing out runners is undone by pitch blocking. The Mariners FO clearly thinks a lot about catcher defense, but looking at the succession of catchers who’ve played for the M’s (Rob Johnson, Adam Moore, Miguel Olivo, Jesus Montero, John Jaso, now Kelly Shoppach), it’s glaringly obvious that they don’t much care about passed balls/wild pitches. I’m not saying they’re wrong to see it as a minor element of a catcher’s overall worth – it’s just an interesting and very consistent pattern.