Nick Cafardo reported yesterday that the Red Sox had an interest in catcher Kelly Shoppach. Now Jerry Crasnick of ESPN is reporting that the Sox signed Shoppach to a one-year deal worth $1.35 million.
Shoppach was drafted by the Sox in 2001 and made his major league debut with the team in 2005. He was traded to Cleveland in 2006 as part of the deal that brought Coco Crisp to Boston.
“I’m excited to be going back to Boston,” Shoppach posted on his Twitter account.
Shoppach spent four years with the Indians and the last two with the Rays. He is a career .224 hitter but has fallen off dramatically at the plate over the last three seasons, hitting .197/.307/.365.
Shoppach is a .274/.373/.536 hitter against lefthanders in his career, which would make him a good backup to Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who is better hitter against righthanders.
The addition of Shoppach would seem to signal the end of Jason Varitek's stay with the Red Sox, something that GM Ben Cherington has been broadly hinting at for weeks. It also gives the Red Sox the option of having Ryan Lavarnway start the season with Triple A Pawtucket.
Lavarnway had 61 games and 264 at-bats with the PawSox last season. He mashed while there (.295/.390/.612) but is still a work in progress defensively.
In theory, given the versatility of Mike Aviles, the Sox could carry three catchers. Or perhaps Lavarnway makes the team and Shoppach is traded or released.
There are no indications that obtaining Shoppach is the precursor to using Lavarnway in a trade. But obtaining a backup catcher creates that option, too.
Varitek said after the season that he wanted to return to the Red Sox for a 16th year. Other teams could have interest in Varitek as a backup.
Josh Beckett will not likely welcome this roster shift. Varitek has been his personal catcher for several seasons and caught all but two of his 30 starts in 2011. But the Red Sox seem less inclined to cater to the players following a historic September collapse and two consecutive third-place finishes.