What Kelly Shoppach Brings to the Mets

In case you missed it, the Mets acquired catcher Kelly Shoppach from the Boston Red Sox, in return for a player to be named later.

There was a time that I thought trading for Shoppach made a lot of sense for the Mets — back in March of 2008, when he was 28 years old (check out that post and note a certain LHP that was on the block at the time; shame on you, Walnutz!). I also thought it would have been great if the Mets traded for Shoppach in 2009, when the Indians dealt him to the Rays instead. But of course, I wasn’t alone — many Mets fans and bloggers felt that Shoppach would have been a nice addition behind the dish, back when he was on the right side of 30.

Finally, the Mets get Shoppach, but he’s now 32 years old; he’ll be 33 shortly after Opening Day in 2013. Considering the Mets are presumably rebuilding with youth, does this deal make sense?

According to Mets manager Terry Collins (from ESPN):

“He’s going to catch certainly against the lefthanders. That’s one of the reasons why we got him,” said Collins. “I know one of the reasons we want to take a look at him the last six weeks here is to see how he’ll fit.”

So, Shoppach will be taking time away from the still-developing Josh Thole. Thole, by the way, turns 26 at the end of October; I’m not sure how much better he’s going to get at this point. Formative years are generally from the teens through the mid-20s, and we haven’t seen much progress from Thole over the last year and a half. That said, it’s difficult to theorize that Shoppach can be a “mentor” to young Joshua. In fact, I wonder if this is step one in creating a 2013 platoon that does not include Thole.

You may be wondering why the Mets would want a thirty-something catcher in the middle of a rebuilding phase. There are two very strong reasons: first, there simply aren’t many good young catchers available on the trade market — any that are, likely are unobtainable by the Mets. Second, the Mets’ future success depends heavily on young pitching — Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler, and Jeurys Familia in particular. Those youngsters need a solid, knowledgeable, confident, experienced leader behind the plate to properly develop. Josh Thole, unfortunately, is not that guy. We don’t know for sure that Shoppach is that guy, but that’s why he’s spending the final six weeks of the season with the Mets — to find out if he is, and if so, maybe the Mets can put together a strong enough contract to keep him around for 2013.

Further, the Mets might want to see just how much of a difference it is for their young pitchers to have an experienced backstop guiding them. Shoppach has always been valued for his ability to handle pitchers and call a game — two elements that have been more or less nonexistent from Mets catchers for the past several years. There’s a great article on Shoppach’s preparation and handling of pitchers from the Tampa Bay Tribune (definitely worth your time — read it). In that article, Joe Maddon said, among other things:

“All of that stuff is pretty much as advertised,” Maddon said. “He gets into it. He has strong opinions, and I like that. And they’re rooted in him doing his homework. …

“He’s going to bring an element to us, in regard to how he studies and how he approaches the pitchers on a daily basis, that I’m kind of liking. And I think the pitchers will react to that favorably, also.”

And from select Rays pitchers:

(“It didn’t feel like the first time I’d thrown to this guy,” Grant Balfour said) and a directness in his approach (“He shoots you straight,” Randy Choate said).

“He made me do some things I might not normally do (in terms of pitch selection and usage),” veteran reliever Dan Wheeler said. “He challenges you as a pitcher, and he gives you the confidence to go out there and make those pitches.”

Now, that article was your typical spring training puff piece, but there are bits and quotes in there that make me feel really good about Shoppach joining the Mets — even if it’s for only the last month and a half of the season. If you visit this site often, you know I put more value on the catching position than can be measred by stats, and I believe strongly that the Mets pitching staff and defense can reach its full potential only with a solid catcher leading them. Shoppach might be that catcher.

Does this trade mean the Mets get into the postseason? Of course not; we might not even see a significant improvement in the win-loss record. But from this point forward, we shouldn’t be looking at the results as much as the process. If bringing in a “real” Major League catcher improves the process, then there is reason to believe the results will improve in 2013.

What do you think? Do you like this deal? Could you care less? If nothing else, express your choice for the PTBNL in the comments.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Walnutz15 August 15, 2012 at 12:20 pm
    Still hate Cliff Lee, for the record.

    Don’t think I’ve ever advocated for his services, even on his best day — especially not for the money he’s commanding. Just don’t like him.

    RE: Shoppach/Thole — I’ll just mirror my sentiment from last night’s Game Recap:

    Idunno about crapping on the Kelly Shoppach acquisition…..

    Josh Thole still needs to learn a thing (or twelve) about catching in the Major Leagues.

    I’m not even a huge fan of Shoppach – however:

    As much crap as we give Thole (and I fully acknowledge that he was concussed this year******), he’s been behind the dish in Flushing for awhile now — while it hasn’t even been his primary position for more than a few years, coming through the ranks.

    Just another rush-job by this organization….shocking I know — I digress.

    Thole’s still relatively young, and can stand to learn – particularly in a “no-pressure” environment on a bad squad….playing “2nd fiddle” (at least temporarily) to Shoppach in a platoon role.

    Where it goes from there? ….up to Thole, to progress.

    As much as Shoppach doesn’t impress me offensively, I’m sure he’s worlds more advanced in the receiving and game-calling department — where he’ll definitely be a big help for Thole.

    Let’s face it:

    – Ramon Castro was a lazy clown, who was more interested in horsing around on the bench, than actually starting for a (then) contending club.

    – Ronny Paulino was a dog, who shut it down at some arbitrary point each season……even when I followed him on the Pirates. Always his knock.

    – Mike Nickeas and Rob Johnson aren’t even Major Leaguers. Nice try, guys – but that’s that.

    Hopefully, this brings about a solid L/R pairing down the road.

    I’ve never had a problem with Josh Thole as my back-up catcher……especially if he’s actually learning something from his partner on his days off.

    And that’s up to Shoppach, to do what it takes in that department. It shouldn’t be hard to “supplant” Thole, just on defensive prowess alone.

    I’m confident that the Mets will re-sign him, simply because he’s not making an exorbitant amount of money (even if overpaid) — not to mention, there’s nothing else out there (unless they built up to some kind of trade).

    Footnote on Thole:

    ****** And very likely, a bunch of times already, throughout Thole’s career:

    NEW YORK – Josh Thole doesn’t know exactly how many concussions he’s sustained. He estimates the one Ty Wiggington shouldered into him at home plate eight days ago is the fourth.

    There was the time he took a ball in the forehead while playing first base in 2007, his most severe, which left him vomiting. Then one in 2008 and another in 2010.There could be more, but he’s not an expert of the concussion grading system so he’s not sure.


  2. JoeBourgeois August 15, 2012 at 12:23 pm
    Question, though I should know this already:

    The PTBNL process works like: Mets give the Sox a list of 3/4 guys to pick from. Sox say, give me a couple of weeks to think about it.


    Otherwise, why not name whoever it is now?

    • DL August 15, 2012 at 1:22 pm
      There’s several reasons why PTBNL is not named already in the trade. It could be they’re shopping additional deals (especially in 3 team trade situations – the PTBNL could depend on how much cash another team chips in, or the other team waiting for their other waiver claims to clear up,) it could be a injury/leave situation where they’re not able to be traded right away, it could be negotiating any cash aspects (we need to pay his last 6 weeks salary etc.) It could be the other side has questions (citizenship status, criminal history, checking up on past physical ailments, etc.)
      I think there’s others, but I forget what else.
  3. mic August 15, 2012 at 2:49 pm
    I AM a Shoppach fan. More than ever before!! Note I am the first comment back in 2009…and every other Shoppach story…back to when he came up.

    I dont get your audience Joe. You teach, teach, teach. Then critique. It is obvious that the Mets need a catcher. Have needed one for FIVE years since Loduca left. Look who the Yanks have , how they got him AND how much they pay him…. a catcher who Loduca was brought in to school (in LA).

    WHAT shoppach brings:
    -The outside part of the plate
    -I think the pitchers will throw better games, the bullpen gets better AND MOST important you protect your talent…Jeurys, Harvey, Zach, and Jenry. Plus the two Ramirezs and Edgin.
    -Thole has no confidence now. His offense and defense has regressed.
    -Rob and Warthen clash over game calling yet Rob has been Harvey’s catcher.
    -Shopp is hardly going to be costly, and his attitude is polar to Castro and LoDuca.
    -He is exactly what the Mets need! and bonus, a buffer to negate Warthen too.
    WOW! This is better than trading for Zach Greinke! (who would melt in the hot NY sun with NY press BBQ grills lit under him.

    • Joe Janish August 15, 2012 at 5:02 pm
      Mic, you and I have been waiting for this for a long time … better late than never, I guess!

      Good points.

  4. SiddFinch August 15, 2012 at 3:48 pm
    Shoppach is a solid addition. A good receiver with a bit of pop in his bat. If all goes well he’ll be back to platoon with another catcher next year. i doubt it will be Thole. He is most likely playing his final weeks in a Mets uniform.
  5. DaveSchneck August 15, 2012 at 4:54 pm
    Despite a little anti-Met sarcasm the Soppach acquisition makes sense…I’m glad Jeffy W. okayed the huge salary hit on behalf of the fan base. Too bad it didn’t happen earlier, but perhaps the price was a little higher or the Sox were unsure. I do think they need to retain him, so hopefully he makes a good impression and wants to stay. Thole could be a decent back and part of a righty/lefty platoon. I agree with your take on Thole and more importantly I suspect that the Mets do as well.
  6. ovanjye August 15, 2012 at 5:46 pm
    Let the retooling begin Shoppach nice addition , now we need to find a starter and we can get rid of Thole by Trade. A little more tinkering a the Mets might be all RIGHT!!!! They act like we need a new outfield. I disagree I beleive they really need to put Duda,Kirk back out there next year! Get a leftfielder ala Jhonny Gomes, Keep Harrison. Trade Murphy,Thole,Half the bullpen and go with Gee, Parnell, Frankie,Edgin and get another lefty. Infield is set Davis,Vlady,Tajeda,Wright. Need a power bat in leftfield, but Gomes will do and if the batting coach can do his job it would help. The hitters need to hit instead of looking at so many pitches aka Duda, Kirk. the Mets aren’t going to spend. So this is a approach you got to get use too right here. A little here and there till 2025!
  7. argonbunnies August 15, 2012 at 11:42 pm
    Mike Pelfrey certainly pitched better with Henry Blanco behind the plate. That said, Shoppach may be a respected veteran, but that doesn’t necessarily make him Blanco.

    Aside from Pelf needing a big boy to lead him around the playground, I haven’t noticed much difference in the Mets’ play whether it was Barajas, Thole, Blanco, Paulino, Nickeas or Omir Santos catching. Before that, Brian Schneider came in with a great rep and did virtually nothing to live up to it. I never liked the way Castro called a game.

    Blanco wasn’t bad, but the last game-caller I remember actually liking was LoDuca.

    Anyway, if Schneider, Paulino, Barajas and Castro weren’t vastly better than Thole, I ain’t holdin’ my breath on Shoppach.

    Who was our last catcher who actually smothered balls in the dirt with his body instead of stabbing with the glove? (Piazza tried, but often wasn’t quick enough.) Charlie O’Brien?

  8. Dan B August 16, 2012 at 10:12 am
    Sometimes teams request a PTBNL because they don’t want to give up a roster spot. The Red Sox might want to wait until offseason when players leave for FA. Or the player they are getting won’t clear waivers.
    I like getting Shoppard. I just question the timing. We have so little assets other teams want, why waste one here when we could sign him in offseason? So we can watch him make 10 starts in person? We don’t send scouts to other teams anymore?
    I am guessing we gave up a low level prospect for him. Considering that and how SA did not want a low level prospect for Hairston and Byrdak, I am amazed how little SA values prospects. On a team that is rebuilding through it’s farm system!
  9. Walnutz15 August 16, 2012 at 3:25 pm
    Beato has been named as the PTBNL.
  10. Izzy August 16, 2012 at 6:56 pm
    Good move???? A 32 year old catcher who has never hit for a 25 year old reliever, and you could have plucked Suzuki off waivers, but why should you have, he’s younger than Shoppach, he’s a better hitter than Shoppach, and from the few games I’ve seen him in DC, he’s a very good catcher. How is getting a 32 year old a good move, unless of course you are making a playoff push. Are we now making our playoff push????? It was a dumb move. A useless move.
  11. Mike Kelm August 17, 2012 at 11:15 am
    This is an offensive platoon in every sense of the word. Shoppach is a career .270 hitter against lefties with half of his career home runs in only 1/3 of his at bats. He only hits .203 against righties. Thole on the other hand hits righties at a clip of .287 over his career, but lefties to the tune of .188. Given how incredibly unsuccessful the mets have been as a team against lefties (excluding Scott Hairston, who if he could hit against lefties 162 games a year would be a hall of famer) the two combine to make one offensive player.

    In terms of behind the plate leadership, that’s very hard to quantify, but Thole’s skills behind the plate still seem limited (and possibly regressing). He doesn’t hit enough to really justify this, and with a pitching staff that may have relatively little experience (depending on what the Mets do re: Gee, Pelfrey, Harvey, Wheeler, Mejia) and that there will be more interleague play next year, Shoppach bring more game experience and more AL experience than Thole does.

    Long term, I think this is also an extended try out for Shoppach, who is a free agent this offseason. If he plays well and meshes with the pitching staff, expect him to be resigned for a couple of years at around a million or so per. If he doesn’t, then no real harm. But unless the Mets can sign a free agent in the off season (And there are no truly great options AJ Pierzynski? Russell Martin?) or can make a deal for a viable starter, than a Thole/Shoppach platoon might be the best option

  12. Tom K August 18, 2012 at 2:51 pm
    I like this move. The guy hits a home run and throws out a base runner last night, not bad.

    However, what are our options if Shoppach doesn’t do well or does do well and prices himself beyond what the Mets are willing to pay?

    Napoli is unlikely even if the Rangers let him go in order to pay Hamilton.

    Iannetta if the Angels refuse his option?

    Bring Jesus Flores back to the organization if he’s non-tendered by the Nats? A possibility since they have the young guy Wilson Ramos and Suzuki. Flores isn’t a full-time starter but he wouldn’t be bad in a platoon.

    It’s too bad we didn’t sign Pudge instead of that bum Paulino. Somehow, I think Thole would have developed further with Pudge.

  13. Wohjr August 19, 2012 at 4:09 pm
    Apparently he also brings text messages to ownership!