Seattle Mariners catcher Mike Zunino, a former first-round draft pick who has not fully played to expectations in his six…
Seattle Mariners catcher Mike Zunino, a former first-round draft pick who has not fully played to expectations in his six major league seasons, appears set for a trip across the country.
A source confirmed to The News Tribune that The Mariners are working through the final details on a trade that would send Zunino, outfielder Guillermo Heredia and a minor league pitcher to the Tampa Rays, who has been General Manager Jerry Dipoto’s favorite trade partner .
In exchange, the Mariners would receive outfielder Mallex Smith and a minor league outfielder.
Ryan Divish of The Seattle Times was the first to report the potential deal and that the Mariners and Rays had been in talks for the past week. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported Tuesday that the Mariners had been talking to the Rays about Zunino and he later confirmed the agreement.
It is believed the deal could be finalized on Thursday. The Mariners had not confirmed or officially announced anything.
What’s odd about this deal is that the Mariners briefly had Smith already. He was acquired and quickly traded to Tampa Bay in exchange for right-handed Drew Smyly, who never actually pitched a game for the Mariners after requiring season-ending Tommy John surgery in spring training just before the 201
So Smith was with the Mariners for a whole 77 minutes after he had just been acquired in a deal with the Braves.
Smith’s journey was one of the reasons Dipoto earned his “Trader Jerry” moniker. This would also be Dipoto’s 10th with the Rays since he took over before the 2016 season.
When finalized, this trade would mark the end of an era in Seattle for Zunino, who was the No. 3 overall draft pick in 2012 out of the University of Florida.
On Wednesday night Zunino was announced as the Wilson defensive player of the year at catcher – an award recognizing the top defensive catcher in baseball, even though Zunino was not even a finalist for the American League’s Gold Glove at catcher this season.
He’s shown flashes of immense talent, but his future with the Mariners really became in doubt with his regression offensively this season after a solid season last year. He slashed 251 / .331 / .509 in 2017, and after two stints on the disabled list for an oblique strain and ankle injury he hit.201 / .259 / .410 this season.
For his career, Zunino has slashed .207 / .276 / .406 in over 2,000 at-bats. He made $ 2,975 million in 2018 and is projected to make $ 4 million in 2019.
And with the trade the lone catcher remaining on the Mariners’ 40-man roster would be David Freitas.
Heredia had a strong start to the season and was the Mariners’ best defensive outfielder, but he finished the year batting .236 / .318 / .342. He was their fourth outfielder and often platooned with Denard Span (now a free agent) and Ben Gamel.
So who are the Mariners getting?
Smith batted .296 / .367 / .406 and chairs 40 bases in his first full-league season this year for the Rays. He’s 25 years old, a former fifth-round draft pick out of Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, Florida, and is under club control until 2023.
He fits the bill of 25-30 year-old players Dipoto said he wanted two stock up on. And he’s a fast, athletic outfielder who played predominately center field this past season, but also 47 games in right and 38 in left.
The obvious conclusion is that Dee Gordon will move back to second base and Smith would play center. And that means more first base and designated hitter for Robinson Cano, who said after the final game that he plans to play next next season.
And if Cano is playing designated hitter, that means no Nelson Cruz, who’s a free agent.
And if Zunino is the first to leave – there was already a report earlier this week from Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports saying the Mariners are considering a “full-fledged teardown” – then that certainly means the Mariners could be looking for ways to part with Gordon and / or Cano, too.
Welcome to the hot stove league.