Mariners Insider

Kelly Shoppach designated for assignment, Henry Blanco signed as back-up catcher

Post by Ryan Divish on June 14, 2013 at 2:03 pm with 7 Comments »
June 14, 2013 7:05 pm
 Henry Blanco reaches up in an attempt to tag out a leaping Tampa Bay Rays' Evan Longoria earlier this season. The Mariners signed Blanco to a 1-year contract. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
Henry Blanco reaches up in an attempt to tag out a leaping Tampa Bay Rays’ Evan Longoria earlier this season. The Mariners signed Blanco to a 1-year contract. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)

The Mariners made a roster move while I was standing Oakland Airport Rental Car Center – also known as the third circle of Hades.

Catcher Kelly Shoppach was designated for assignment, and veteran free agent Henry Blanco was signed to a contract and will be here in Oakland tonight wearing number 33.

“We had interest in Henry this off season,”GM Jack Zduriencik said in a press release. “And recent circumstances developed allowing us to acquire Henry. We are pleased to be able to add him to our 25 man roster and look forward to his contributions.”

Before you go crazy about switching out a veteran back-up catcher, for a more veteran back-up catcher, let’s not over-romanticize Shoppach’s contributions.

He was a solid catcher, who filled in nicely when Jesus Montero tanked. After hitting well early, Shoppach’s numbers regressed as expected.

I’m guessing you will hear the word “mentor” used a lot to describe Blanco’s role on the team. With young catchers Mike Zunino and Jesus Sucre on the team, Blanco will provide some of that guidance. The Mariners had originally planned to sign Blanco in the offseason, but he signed with the Blue Jays instead.

“I don’t know what happened,” he said. “We stopped the conversation for some reason. But obviously it was meant for me to be here. That’s the most important thing is now is I’m here. I’m willing to do anything to help this team.”

That includes playing sparingly and being a shoulder for Zunino to lean on.

“You have to understand your role I’m going to play a big role on the bench and that’s the way it’s going to be,” he said.

What will he do for Zunino?

“Make him comfortable – he belongs here. Help him work with his pitching staff. Whatever he needs, I will be here for him,” Blanco said.

To be fair to Shoppach, he wasn’t signed as a mentor. He was signed as a back-up to Montero. There was an expectation of playing time. He wasn’t signed to be a caddy or a teacher to Zunino. And personally, I don’t know that he’d be good at that role.

Blanco is a little different.

At 41, he is a veteran of 16 Major League seasons with Los Angeles (NL, 1997), Colorado (1999), Milwaukee (2000-2001), Atlanta (2002-2003), Minnesota (2004), Chicago (NL, 2005-2008), San Diego (2009), New York (NL, 2010), Arizona (2011-2012) and Toronto (2013). He has a well-earned reputation as a strong defensive catcher, including catching over 40% of baserunners attempting to steal against him in his career (240 catchers-caught stealing in 590 opportunities, a 40.7% success rate).

He was released by the Blue Jays on June 10. He appeared in 15 games with the Blue Jays this season, catching in 13 games, including 11 consecutive starts by knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.

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Leave a comment Comments → 7
  1. Rex97443 says:

    I realize that Shoppach wasn’t tearing it up recently, but I thought they brought him in to fill that “mentor” role in the spring. Was he not fulfilling that role well enough to suit them? Blanco is 8 years older and has a worse slash line than Shoppach this year, while the M’s will owe him $1.5 million this year. Something else seems afoot here…

  2. guiltybystander says:

    Nothing to get exorcised about because we’re talking about swapping one veteran mediocrity at catcher for another, but this move has me a little curious as well.

    Letting go Shoppach, who who was hitting .196 with three homers and nine RBIs over 35 games, is hardly earth-shattering. But we’re replacing him with a guy who hit .184 with 0 homers and 0 RBIs in 15 games and (with just 13 games behind the plate for the Jays) is the AL with 8 passed balls. Plus he’s more than eight years OLDER than the guy he’s replacing. How exactly are the Mariners better with Blanco?

    I’m with Rex97443: This doesn’t add up. Again, it’s not a major move, but there almost has to be more to this than performance because the numbers just don’t justify it.

  3. bbnate420 says:

    Blanco looks more wrinkly than a 90 year old scrot.

  4. bbnate420 says:

    I guess this confirms that Zunino or Sucre is going to be playing 90+ % of the time.

  5. bbnate420 says:

    BTW, is there any good reason for Erasmo Ramirez not to be up here in the next couple of weeks? Replace either Harang or Bonderman. I don’t strongly care which one, but I’d probably keep Harang. No point is holding Ramirez back to start some old starters that won’t be around in 2014. He’s better than either of them when healthy anyways.

  6. kentwa98030 says:

    Unless I am missing something, this looks like a dumb move. At 41 and released again, what does he bring to the table? Is Shoppach not a good mentor, or team player?? Shoppach isn’t that bad, just burned out it looked like….I bet he is not a happy camper today, and either am I but who really cares anyway. The season is over.

  7. wabubba67 says:

    Guiltybystander–I’m guessing that Blanco’s eight passed balls have a direct correlation with catching a knuckleball pitcher (Dickey).

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