MLB Trade Rumors: Mets Could Go After Kelly Shoppach

By Matt Musico

While desperately needing some bullpen help to allow the Mets to stay in contention in the NL East and the NL Wild Card, it has been rumored that Sandy Alderson has been looking for right-handed offense for the catcher’s position. Last week, we talked about the Mets having interest in Ramon Hernandez of the Rockies, but if the price ends up being too high (which is very possible at this point), New York has their eyes on other potentially available catchers, mainly looking at veteran Kelly Shoppach.

It has been no secret that the catcher position has been somewhat of an enigma for the Mets in 2012. After a solid start to the season by Josh Thole, his performance has been underwhelming since he returned from his May 7th concussion. Combined with Mike Nickeas, who is the primary backup to Thole, Mets catchers have produced the third worst OPS in baseball. Thole and Nickeas have only combined for two home runs so far this season, but the organization was well-aware that they weren’t putting Mike Piazzabehind the plate at Citi Field this season. They were more concerned with them producing quality at-bats at the bottom of the lineup. However, in 190 at-bats, Thole has only driven in 11 runs and is hitting .262 with runners in scoring position this season. Meanwhile, Nickeas actually has more RBI (13) than Thole in almost 100 less at-bats (93 ABs). Too bad Nickeas is only hitting .172 overall this season.

So, it behooves Alderson to at least shop around for some cheap, right-handed hitting backup catchers that could help the Mets when a southpaw is on the mound. Despite the high price of Ramon Hernandez, Shoppach could be the better pick up for New York if they could work out a deal with the Red Sox. Not only is Shoppach four years younger than Hernandez, the Boston catcher is only signed through the end of this year, making $1.14 million compared to Hernandez’s contract that runs through the end of 2013, for over double the price per year.

Although Shoppach has only hit .235 against left-handers this season, he’s been able to get on base at a .316 clip and slugging a healthy .510. Josh Thole has handled the Mets’ pitching staff very well, but it can’t hurt to get a veteran to back him up, who’s also had some recent playoff experience, once in 2007 with the Indians as they went to the ALCS, and most recently with the Rays last year as they enjoyed their improbable run to the AL Wild Card. For a young, mostly homegrown team, a veteran presence with pennant race experience is more valuable than anyone may think.

Would the price to acquire Shoppach from the Red Sox be high? He has done a great job backing up Jarrod Saltalamacchia, but with Ryan Lavarnway currently hitting .306/.395/.455 in Triple-A, Shoppach could be expendable for a much lower price than the Rockies are asking for Hernandez. He does also have playoff experience with the Reds, who won the NL Central in 2010, but it looks as though the Mets best chance at getting into the postseason will be through one of the two Wild Card spots, and Shoppach knows a thing or two about making a run for the Wild Card late in the season.