Rockies trade Byrnes to O's for Bigbie

Rockies trade Byrnes to O's for Bigbie

DENVER -- Colorado acquired outfielder Larry Bigbie from the Baltimore Orioles for recently acquired outfielder Eric Byrnes on Friday night, but Bigbie won't be a Rockie for long. The real key is expected to fall to Colorado on Saturday.

According to two Major League Baseball sources, the Rockies are planning to ship Bigbie to the Boston Red Sox. Colorado could be receiving one of baseball's top catching prospects in Kelly Shoppach, who is batting .260 with 21 home runs and 62 RBIs at Triple-A Pawtucket. According to reports, Boston is working on a deal that could move outfielder and 2004 World Series Most Valuable Player Manny Ramirez to the New York Mets as part of a three-team deal involving Tampa Bay.

The Rockies have been searching for a frontline catcher, preferably one that's ready for the Majors. Currently, most of the action behind the plate is going to Danny Ardoin, who has played well defensively but is batting .220 in his first extended look after brief stints with Minnesota and Texas.

Colorado rookie catcher JD Closser has struggled this season, batting .210 and throwing out just one of the 25 runners attempting to steal against him.

Shoppach figured his chance to break in would come elsewhere during the winter, when Boston re-signed Jason Varitek to a contract that could have him behind the plate through 2008. Although Varitek has blocked Shoppach's path to the Majors with the Red Sox, Shoppach appreciates being around him in Spring Training.

"Jason's everyday preparation and how he attacks each game like it's his last is something I've noticed just being around him," Shoppach, 25, told the Pawtucket Times recently. "As a young player, you can become complacent in this long marathon of a season, but you never see any complacency out of Jason."

For the Rockies, it was another step toward trying to build a young roster they can control deeper into the future. Byrnes, acquired from Oakland on July 13, signed a $2.2 million contract last winter to avoid arbitration and is eligible for two more years.

The apparently Boston-bound Bigbie, 27, a left-handed hitter, batted .280 in 139 games with Baltimore last season. A strained left hamstring cost him playing time and hampered his production this year, leaving him with a .249 average in 66 games.

Byrnes, 29, batted .189 in 15 games after arriving in the trade from Oakland. Byrnes and Triple-A infielder Omar Quintinalla came to Colorado for left-handed pitcher Joe Kennedy and right-hander Jay Witasick.

Thomas Harding is a reporter for Gary Washburn contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.