Red Sox, Kelly Shoppach agree

Updated: December 13, 2011, 6:28 PM ET
ESPNBoston.com

The Boston Red Sox have reached agreement on a one-year major league contract with free-agent catcher Kelly Shoppach, almost certainly ending team captain Jason Varitek's 15-year career in Boston.

A source told ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick the 31-year-old Shoppach will make a base salary of $1.35 million, plus performance bonuses.

The Red Sox announced the signing Tuesday night.

For the soon-to-be-40-year-old Varitek, the Shoppach deal should make official what Ben Cherington hinted at the winter meetings last week: that the catcher's tenure in Boston was over. His 15 years, 1,488 games and 190 homers at the position are the most in team history.

"I have a great deal of respect for both [Varitek and Tim Wakefield] and feel like the best thing for the team and the best thing for them is, if there's not a real role on the team, I'm not sure it's fair, I'm not sure it's the right thing for them or for the team, but we haven't gotten to that point yet," said Cherington, who did not offer Varitek arbitration. "I'll talk to them again when we get closer to that.''

Shoppach made $3 million last year in Tampa Bay, where he hit .176 in 87 games. He joins incumbent catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who hit .235 with 16 homers and 56 RBIs in 103 games for the Red Sox last season. The acquisition of Shoppach, regarded primarily for his defense, raises questions about the team's plans for top prospect Ryan Lavarnway, who seemed to be the front-runner to be Saltalamacchia's backup.

This will be Shoppach's second stint with the Red Sox, who selected him out of Baylor University in the second round of the 2001 draft. Shoppach spent five years in the Boston organization before going to Cleveland as part of a seven-player trade in 2006 that brought Coco Crisp in return. At one point early in his career, he was considered the team's eventual successor to Varitek.

Shoppach's best season came in 2008, when he hit .261 with 21 homers and 55 RBIs for the Indians. Since then, he has seen his production numbers decline each season. He does, however, seem to be a logical complement to Saltalamacchia. Among active catchers, Shoppach's career .909 OPS against lefties is fourth-highest in the majors. Saltalamacchia, meanwhile, has a .603 OPS against left-handed pitching.

Last season, Shoppach had 7 homers and a .788 OPS in 108 at-bats against southpaws. Varitek had a .749 OPS and 2 homers in 72 at-bats versus lefties. Shoppach threw out 41 percent of base-stealers (18 out of 44) last season, tops in the American League. Varitek threw out just 14 percent (12 out of 85).

Varitek -- who earlier this offseason said he was committed to playing in 2012, in Boston or elsewhere -- leaves behind a legacy of leadership in Boston. Saltalamacchia told ESPNBoston.com last week that he tried to glean as much as he could from the captain last season.

"I knew last year it could be my last time with [Varitek], just like the year before when I got traded over here," Saltalamacchia said. "I tried to gain as much as I could from him, and we still have communication. That line is always going to be open, regardless if he's with me or not. I took advantage of every opportunity I had with him. To be able to play a full year and watch him really helped me grow as a player, and that's really going to help me succeed."

He wasn't the only catcher on the Red Sox roster to express his admiration for Varitek.

"Jason Varitek has been an absolute icon, not only in the Boston community but in my heart for a very long time," Lavarnway told ESPNBoston.com last week. "He's been my favorite catcher that I watched growing up, and if he doesn't come back next year and I have the opportunity to get some more innings and try to make a bigger impact on this team, the biggest thing I know is that I'm not going to try to be Jason Varitek. I'm going to be Ryan Lavarnway, and I'm going to do the things that I do well to help the team win."

New Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said last week that he did not plan to name a captain if Varitek did not return.

Information from ESPNBoston.com's Gordon Edes and Joe McDonald was used in this report.

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