With the return of Dioner Navarro this week, the Rays now have an interesting dilemma this off-season. When Navi was demoted back in June, we just assumed that he would be non-tendered during the off-season, essentially releasing him. It appeared that the Rays had chosen Kelly Shoppach’s bat over Navi’s defense and familiarity with the pitching staff. And with the inconsistency of the Rays offense, the Rays were willing to take a step backwards defensively at the catcher’s position.
But then something happened. Actually, we should say something didn’t happen. Shoppach never started hitting. In 146 plate appearances, Shoppach is hitting .189 with 3 home runs (2 in one game), a .306 OBP and a .288 wOBA (that sucks).
So what will the Rays do?
Of the three catchers, Shoppach is the only one the Rays are committed to for the 2011 season, to the tune of $3.0 million. Navarro is arbitration-eligible and would make $2.5-3.0 million. If they non-tender him, they owe him nothing. John Jaso would make near the big league minimum of $400K.
You have to assume they will keep Jaso. Even with his below-average fielding, his .388 OBP and .355 wOBA are too good to send back to the minors.
If Shoppach isn’t going to hit, the Rays would prefer to keep Navi. But what do they do with Shoppy’s contract? It is hard to imagine they can trade him. We can’t see the Rays waiving Shoppach, even if Navarro is the better option.
Could they keep all three and use Jaso as a DH and possibly fill-in at first base? That leaves the Rays platooning Navi and Shoppach at catcher, something that didn’t work too well this season.
This is a tricky situation. It seems like Shoppach should be the odd-man out, but his contract may make that impossible.
With all the changes that are likely to happen to the roster this off-season, this one is below-the-radar. But it is also the one that may be the biggest mystery.