The plan for the Seattle Mariners, as it were, was to have Jesus Montero go into 2013 as the team’s full-time catcher; it’s a lofty goal, considering that Montero came in as a bat-only prospect (albeit one of the best in that regard).
The problem with that plan? Depth. Or rather, the lack thereof.
In fact, the team did not have another catcher on its 40-man roster going into today, with only Ronny Paulino (signed to a minor league deal) as the potential backup. Plus, top prospect Mike Zunino is nowhere near ready, not with just 15 games at AA under his belt. The Mariners are committed to Montero as the catcher in equal parts because they’re confident in the sophomore’s abilities, and also because of the simple fact that they have no one else behind him.
For a team that is looking to make some headway in a very competitive AL West, that won’t do.
Well, it’s a problem no more. The Mariners found their backup catcher today, signing veteran Kelly Shoppach to a one-year, $1.5 million deal that will see him serve as the primary backup for Montero. It’s a job that Shoppach has done well over his eight-year career, most recently with the Boston Red Sox and New York Mets in 2012 where he was a 1.2 fWAR player between both teams.
Having Shoppach will not only give the Mariners some insurance should Montero (and his new running regiment) does not pan out as the team’s full-time catcher, but will also provide the 23-year old with an experienced mentor to bounce ideas off of.
Although Shoppach is definitely not someone that you’d call an above average full-time catcher, he did catch more games last season than both Montero and Paulino combined, and even if the Mariner’s go-to guy takes a big jump in that department from last season, one could still reasonably expect Shoppach to be behind the plate between 60-70 games of 2013.
And, with a .192 ISO over his career, Shoppach pop means he won’t be a total loss at the plate during those games either. At a $1.5 million salary, the veteran should prove to be a bargain, and an important part in the growing process the young Mariners squad and its catcher, Jesus Montero.