The Mariners Thursday signed free agent catcher Kelly Shoppach to a one-year, major league contract. To make room on the 40-man roster, the Mariners designated RHP Shawn Kelley for assignment. The Mariners have 10 days to trade, release or outright Kelley to the minor leagues.
The Mariners earlier signed another MLB veteran, Ronny Paulino, 31, to a minor league contract. Shoppach, 32, and Paulino will share time at spring training with incumbent Jesus Montero, in the absence of John Jaso, who was traded to Oakland. The Mariners have hopes that the organization’s brightest catching prospect, Mike Zunino, may be ready for MLB duty by the summer.
Shoppach appeared in 76 games with the Red Sox and Mets in 2012. In eight major league seasons the veteran catcher has appeared in 536 games and combined to hit 67 home runs. He ranks fourth among active catchers with a home run every 22.36 at-bats (minimum 1,000 PA).
Over the last two seasons, Shoppach has a caught-stealing percentage of 31.76 (27 CS, 58 SB), the sixth-best rate in the majors. Over the course of his career, Shoppach has combined to throw out 29 percent of attempted base stealers (89 of 306).
The Fort Worth, TX., native was selected by Red Sox in the second round of the 2001 June draft from Baylor University.
Kelley, 28, went 2-4 with a 3.25 ERA (16 ER, 44.1 IP) in 47 relief appearances last season. Over parts of four MLB seasons with the Mariners, the Louisville native combined for a 3.52 ERA in 120 relief appearances. He was selected in the 13th round of the 2007 June draft out of Austin Peay University.