CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Indians traded catcher Kelly Shoppach to the Tampa Bay Rays for a player to be determined.

After Shoppach filled in for an injured Victor Martinez
and led American League catchers with 21 homers in 2008, the Indians
were expecting big things from him last season. However, he batted just
.214 with 12 homers and 40 RBIs in 89 games. He struck out 89 times in
271 at-bats.

Shoppach's departure could make Lou Marson, acquired in the deal that sent pitcher Cliff Lee to Philadelphia, Cleveland's starter behind the plate. Wyatt Toregas likely will be the backup catcher. Highly touted prospect Carlos Santana is expected to begin the season at Triple-A Columbus, but the Indians hope he will be in the majors at some point next season.

"This is most about our young players," Cleveland general manager Mark Shapiro
said in announcing the deal on Tuesday. "We are excited about giving
them an opportunity to play. It's an area of strength for us."

Marson
and Toregas both spent time with the Indians late last season, but
Santana, 23, is clearly Cleveland's catcher of the future. He batted
.290 with 23 homers and 97 RBIs last season at Double-A Akron and was
named the Most Valuable Player in the Eastern League.

"Most
likely for Carlos some time at Triple-A continuing to develop his
game-calling, his leadership skills and honing his defensive game will
be beneficial," Shapiro said. "I would expect at some point [next]
season, between April and September, we'll see him in Cleveland."

Shapiro
acknowledged financial considerations were involved in the trade.
Shoppach, who made $1.95 million last season, is eligible for salary
arbitration and could earn close to $3 million in 2010.

The Indians might sign a veteran catcher before spring training opens, but it's not likely to be a starter.

"I
do not expect to sign someone to take the bulk of the playing time,"
Shapiro said. "It would be someone who would factor in as a player in a
backup type role."

The Indians will complete the trade with
Tampa Bay before Dec. 20. Shapiro said the player the Indians receive
could be on the 25-man roster when the season begins.

Shoppach spent four seasons with Cleveland. He was acquired in a 2006 trade with Boston.

"Kelly's
a guy who has great talent and the ability to be a complete catcher,"
Shapiro said. "He calls a good game, he throws well and, obviously, he
hits for power. I know he strikes out a lot, but he's got great power.
The more contact he makes the more a run producer he will be."