It was announced today that the Rays made their second off season move today as they acquired Kelly Shoppach from the Indians for a player to be named later. Is this the first move to severing ties with incumbent Dioner Navarro?
The rotund backstop is elegible for arbitration, but the thinking around the blogs is that the Rays will now non-tender him and grant him his free agency. Last season was a major step back for the former Yankee super prospect as his average dipped 77 points from a career best .295 in 2008 to a career worst .218.
Preceding the season long slump was an arbitration hearing last season that the Rays won. Despite the claims that process was fair, it seemed that Navarro was bothered that the Rays didn't think his season was worth a $2.5 million pay day (the Rays won at $2.1 million).
So how does this compare to the Aki! deal earlier this winter? Well, for one I'm not outraged by it. I was never a fan of Navarro. He had a tendancy to have moments of sheer laziness on the field. I've never seen a major league catcher have as many passed balls on fastballs as Navi did last season.
While he does have a strong arm, Shoppach isn't that much of a drop off. Navarro threw out about 27% of would be base theives last season (22 out of 83) while Shoppach nailed 23% (15 out of 64). Their fielding percentages were almost identical (.994 for Navi to .992 for the new guy).
This isn't a case of the Rays dumping a veteran for a young prospect either. Navarro is actually a few years older than Shoppach. Nor is it a salary dump. There's a good chance that the right-handed hitting Shoppach will earn more this year than Navi.
Rather this is the nDRO realizing it's time to cut the strings with a player who rarely lived up to his potential.