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Tampa Bay Rays sign catcher Kelly Shoppach to two-year contract

ST. PETERSBURG — Catcher Kelly Shoppach said signing a two-year deal with the Rays on Tuesday that guarantees $5.55 million, with a team option for a third year, had a lot to do with providing security for him and his family.

For the Rays, it gives them a player they like with cost certainty. But it doesn't necessarily change their plans at catcher for this coming year.

Executive vice president Andrew Friedman said they still plan to use both Shoppach and Dioner Navarro this season, based on matchups, and feel having depth at that position is "incredibly valuable."

"We feel like right now, both Shop and Navi are better players than how they performed in 2009, and we feel like we've got a very good problem on our hands," Friedman said. "And it is something I fully expect will play out over the course of the 2010 season."

For Shoppach, 29, the deal covers the 2010-11 seasons and includes an option for 2012, which would be his first year of free agency. He'll get $2.25 million in 2010 and $3 million in 2011. The 2012 team option is $3.2 million or a $300,000 buyout, with escalators that could raise it to $4 million or $500,000.

The deal avoids arbitration with Shoppach, who was acquired Dec. 1 from Cleveland for what turned out to be right-hander Mitch Talbot. Shoppach made $1.95 million last season when he hit .214 with 12 homers and 40 RBIs after leading AL catchers with 21 homers in 2008.

"As we all know, there's no guarantees in this game," said Shoppach, married with three daughters. "And I couldn't let an opportunity like this pass me by. … I had an opportunity to be able to sleep a little better at night knowing I'll be able to take care of my family for the next couple years."

The Rays also have Navarro signed for $2.1 million in a deal made at the deadline to tender contracts. Navarro is coming off a disappointing season in which he hit .218 after his 2008 All-Star year, and he had left elbow surgery in November to stabilize an ulnar nerve. He is expected to be ready for spring training.

Friedman said he reached out to Navarro's agent before Shoppach's deal was announced.

"Navi is a competitor, and his mind-set is to help the team win games in 2010," Friedman said.

Four Rays remain arbitration eligible: left-hander J.P. Howell, shortstop Jason Bartlett, right-hander Matt Garza and centerfielder B.J. Upton. Friedman hopes to continue the trend of recent years of avoiding hearings by getting deals done.

Joe Smith can be reached at

Tampa Bay Rays sign catcher Kelly Shoppach to two-year contract 01/05/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 5, 2010 8:39pm]
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