Red Sox ink deal with backstop Shoppach
Signing catcher all but ends Varitek's tenure with Boston
The Red Sox have signed a veteran catcher, and he isn't Jason Varitek.
Kelly Shoppach, who turns 32 in April, signed on for a second go-around with the Red Sox on a $1.35 million deal, the team confirmed on Tuesday night.
The deal is guaranteed, which means that Ryan Lavarnway is at least in a competition for a job as Jarrod Saltalamacchia's backup, if Lavarnway isn't outright ticketed for Triple-A Pawtucket. It also means that a window for Varitek to return for a 16th season in Boston is virtually closed.
Varitek, who turns 40 in April and is a free agent, has played his entire Major League career with the Red Sox. His 1,488 games as a catcher are the most for a Boston backstop.
"I have spoken to 'Tek and plan to keep speaking to him," said Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington. "We have a lot of respect for him, and it's important that we treat him that way."
Shoppach was once Boston's top pick in the First-Year Player Draft, taken in the second round in 2001. He made his Major League debut with Boston in 2005 and spent the next four seasons in Cleveland before spending 2010-11 with the Rays.
Shoppach's a lifetime .224 hitter, but he hasn't hit over .200 the past two seasons. He's much more serviceable against left-handed pitching, with a career .274/.373/.536 line. Shoppach threw out 41 percent of potential basestealers in 2011 (18-of-44), a career high, and his lifetime average sits at 28 percent.