On Wednesday, news broke that the Mariners were trading former number 3 overall pick Mike Zunino, as well as as CF Guillermo Heredia, to the Tampa Bay Rays for OF Mallex Smith and two other PTBNL.
Zunino, the 2012 Golden Spikes Award winner, given to the best player in college baseball, was selected number three overall in the 2012 MLB Draft and never truly lived up to his hype. Through six major league seasons, Zunino sports a .207 career batting average to go along with a .682 OPS. Despite being regarded as one of the best defensive catchers in all of baseball, and having decent power to boot, having hit 20 home runs in back to back seasons while playing in the spacious Safeco Field, the Mariners decided that Zunino was not worth the estimated $4.6 million dollars he was set to make in arbitration. With Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto saying that the team isn’t rebuilding but “re-imagining” the roster, Zunino was made expendable in order to obtain the younger, and more versatile Mallex Smith.
Smith, who came out of absolutely nowhere, was a huge part of the Rays surprising success this season. Smith batted a cool .296 while stealing 40 bases and having an OPS+ of 115. Smith also has experience playing all three outfield positions and is an above average defender.
What interests me about this deal is that it leaves the Mariners without a starting catcher. Their two options going into the 2019 season are Chris Hermann and David Freitas, two players who are not starting caliber catchers at the big league level.
I have a hunch, and nothing more than that, that the Red Sox are going to deal one of their three backstops to the Mariners this offseason, likely Sandy Leon or Blake Swihart.
Leon has proven to be one of the most pitcher-friendly catchers in all of baseball and could help bring stability to the erratic Mariners pitching staff. Blake Swihart showed this season that with even a little bit of playing time, he could be productive, in addition to being one of the most versatile utility players in the game. With Christian Vazquez being locked up to a multi year extension earlier this year, he’s likely staying put beyond this season. However, with both Swihart and Leon both being free agents after this season
The return would likely be minimal, similar to the Deven Marrero trade last year with the DiamondBacks, where the Sox got cash considerations and nothing more. Even though not much would be coming back in this hypothetical trade that I’m guessing is going to happen, it would shake up the Red Sox roster.
We’ll see if I’m correct. Only time will tell.
*Photo By Kim Klement-USA TODAY sports