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Tampa Bay Rays keep James Shields, Kyle Farnsworth; free agency for Kelly Shoppach

ST. PETERSBURG — Right-hander James Shields had some confidence the Rays would pick up his $7.5 million option for next season.

But after Shields found out Monday afternoon that they had, he joked that "the wait of anticipation is always fun."

Tampa Bay also picked up the $3.3 million option for closer Kyle Farnsworth before Monday's midnight deadline but chose to buy out catcher Kelly Shoppach's contract for $300,000, as opposed to taking his $3.2 million option. The Rays and Shoppach appear open to discussing a return at a different price.

"James and Kyle played very large roles in our postseason run and are ready to help lead us back there in 2012," executive vice president Andrew Friedman said. "Kelly was a significant asset defensively this year and played extremely well down the stretch, but in looking to bolster the catching position this winter, we felt it necessary to assess all of the options available to us."

Bringing back Shields, who had an All-Star season with a major-league-most 11 complete games, was a no-brainer. The Rays' team MVP is excited to come back for the only team he has known. His option could increase to $8 million if he finishes in the top five of the American League Cy Young Award voting.

"I'm glad it's over with," he said. "I had some confidence they were going to pick my option up. What I did last season I think it definitely helped the cause out a little bit."

Farnsworth also had a career year, racking up 25 saves in his first full season as closer. He had right elbow tenderness that forced him to miss a couple of weeks in September, but agent Barry Meister said he is fine. Meister said Farnsworth is thrilled to be back, playing close to his Orlando-area home.

"He really wanted to come back. He feels like he found a home," Meister said. "He's really happy."

Shoppach has been disappointing offensively since being acquired from the Indians in 2009 and signed to a multiyear deal. He hit .176 last season, .241 against left-handers.

But Shoppach's work behind the plate could make him a candidate to return. He worked well with the pitching staff and threw out 15 of 41 attempted base stealers, an AL-best 36.6 percent.

Rookie catcher Jose Lobaton batted .118 last season and was hampered by injuries. Fellow rookie Robinson Chirinos, also expected to compete with Lobaton and John Jaso, broke a bone near his right wrist last month.

Agent Ryan Ware has said Shoppach enjoyed his time with the Rays and is open to coming back.

Shields is likely to find himself in trade rumors, especially given the Rays' surplus of starting pitching. But Friedman has been reluctant to sap the valuable pitching depth, and Shields "is definitely optimistic" he'll be a Ray on opening day.

"I know this is a business," he said. "I know that they can take care of what they need to take care of, and I'm hopeful I'm in their plans."

PRICE CHECK: With left-hander David Price reaching Super Two status — earning an extra year of arbitration eligibility based on service time — he used his right to opt out of the final year of his contract and is in line for a raise through arbitration this offseason.

Price signed a six-year, $8.5 million deal after being the top draft pick in 2007 and was slated to make $2.433 million in 2012. He could make more through his first of four seasons of arbitration eligibility but remains under Rays control for those years.

MINOR MATTERS: Lefty Matt Moore won the 52nd J.G. Taylor Spink Award as the Topps/minor-league player of the year.

Tampa Bay Rays keep James Shields, Kyle Farnsworth; free agency for Kelly Shoppach 10/31/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 1, 2011 7:31am]
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