CLEVELAND -- Count Kelly Shoppach among those curious to see how the upcoming Winter Meetings in Las Vegas play out. While the Indians have made it clear their preference is to retain both Shoppach and their primary catcher, Victor Martinez, preferences can change in a hurry when names get tossed around on the Hot Stove. When Martinez missed 2 1/2 months following elbow surgery in mid-June of this past season, Shoppach proved his worth as an everyday catcher. Shoppach batted .261 with 21 homers, 27 doubles and 55 RBIs in 112 games. The homer total was the most among American League catchers, and his RBIs total ranked fourth, despite the fact that he only had 352 at-bats.
Those are numbers that would no doubt appeal to clubs looking for a new backstop. "It's going to be an interesting week coming up," said Shoppach, checking in from the Indians' new training facility in Goodyear, Ariz. "You never know what can happen." The Marlins, Reds and Astros are among the clubs believed to be looking for affordable catching help, and it's a position that is often difficult to fill with somebody capable of making a true impact in the lineup. But the Indians are hesitant to deal Shoppach, who is arbitration-eligible for the first time, because of several concerns. For one, Martinez will be coming off an injury-plagued '08 that sapped him of his power. And designated hitter Travis Hafner's subpar performance the past two seasons and shoulder weakness in '08 make him a major question mark. Toss in the inconsistency displayed by first baseman Ryan Garko, which might lead to the versatile Martinez getting more time at first, and Shoppach's power bat looks mighty valuable. Should Shoppach stay -- and he's made it clear he'd love to -- he said he's not overly concerned with the distribution of playing time, however convoluted it might become. "Like I've always said, I'll do what they tell me to do," he said. "One day in the big leagues is better than 100 days in the Minor Leagues. You keep your mouth shut, and you do the best you can." But Shoppach won't keep his eyes shut when it comes to watching the winter rumor mill twirl. He has not just himself to think about, but also his growing family. His wife, Jennifer, is due to give birth to a third daughter in February. "I don't think I care so much about myself," Shoppach said. "The stress is more on my family. We're trying to make arrangements for where we're going to live in Cleveland, because you have to start thinking about those things. It's tougher on my family than me, because I understand the business and how things can change at a moment's notice." Shoppach knows from experience. He was acquired in January 2006 as part of the six-player trade that sent Coco Crisp to Boston and brought Andy Marte to Cleveland. While Crisp and Marte were considered the key pieces of the deal, it can be argued that Shoppach made the largest impact. And the 28-year-old Shoppach expects to be making an impact in Cleveland, not elsewhere, next season. "In my mind, I'm not going to get traded," he said. "But a lot of guys sign during this coming week. It's an exciting time for [former teammates] Casey [Blake], Paul [Byrd] and CC [Sabathia], so I'm excited to see where those guys end up." At the end of the '08 season, Shoppach underwent successful arthroscopic surgery to clean out his right knee. He has made a full recovery from the surgery and is working out daily at the new complex. "I had some discomfort [in the knee] all year, come-and-go-type stuff, pretty typical pains for an everyday player," he said. "At times, it was difficult to deal with, but, as I've said since I got over here, the Indians have one of the best staffs, as far as keeping players on the field and training young kids to be big league players. They did a good job."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.