CLEVELAND -- Kelly Shoppach got a raise, and the Indians continued a streak. Both sides came out happy Monday, when Shoppach signed a one-year deal worth $1.95 million with the Tribe to avoid salary arbitration. The Indians have not had to go to an arbitration hearing with a player since it came to that point with Greg Swindell and Jerry Browne in 1991. The Shoppach contract came together relatively quick. The process didn't even reach the Jan. 19 deadline in which clubs and arbitration-eligible players exchange salary figures. Shoppach, who hit .261 with 21 homers and 55 RBIs last season, was the Tribe's only arbitration-eligible player.
"I think both sides were anxious and excited to get something done quickly and not have it draw out so we didn't have to go through court," Shoppach said. "There's nothing like being able to put your head on the pillow at night and know your family is going to be OK -- at least for the near future." Shoppach's family is growing. His wife, Jennifer, is due to give birth to a third daughter any day now. "There's a lot of stuff happening right now," said Shoppach, who has been working out regularly at the Indians' new Spring Training complex in Goodyear, Ariz. Shoppach, 28, filled in admirably at catcher for an injured Victor Martinez last season and has therefore earned himself an increased role with the Tribe in '09. It's expected that Martinez will see more time at first base to make room for Shoppach, who made $404,100 last season, to get more starts behind the plate. So, how much time and how many more starts? That's a question yet to be determined. The Indians want to keep all their options open. "We're not going to be able to give you concretes," general manager Mark Shapiro said last week. "Kelly's earned the opportunity to play more. What that means is not concrete. That's a question you've got to give us time to answer, out of respect to the players and out of a genuine desire to maintain flexibility."
Shoppach's 21 homers were third among all Major League catchers, and his 14 second-half homers were tied for sixth among all American Leaguers. He was fourth in the AL in RBIs at catcher despite having at least 100 fewer at-bats than his top three competitors. He's obviously not your average backup, but he isn't uttering any "play me or trade me" demands just yet. "Basically, you'll get my classic line of, 'I'll do whatever they ask me to,'" he said. "That's just the guy I am. I'm going to do the best I can, no matter what that position might be. It's not even about me. The Indians have done a very fine job of acquiring some talent that can help us go forward this season. Winning games is the bottom line. I think they did what they needed to do to shore up those holes. I'm really excited about the prospects of what we can do this season."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.