As many expected the Tampa Bay Rays have been linked to numerous catching rumors as the hot stove has only just begun. Lets break down the rumors to this point.
With the beginning of the GM meetings in California yesterday, the Tampa Bay Rays were linked to who else but the Seattle Mariners. Yes, the Tampa Bay Rays were again in discussions with their favorite trade partners, this time regarding catcher Mike Zunino.
Zunino, 27, is a year removed from his best season at the plate. In 2017 he hit .251 with 25 bombs while driving in 64 runs. He posted an OPS+ of 125 which is good but aside from 2017 he hasn’t been a real threat at the plate.
Sure, he hit 20 homers this year but he also struck out 37% of the time. He is good defensively though and does have pop but the strikeout percentage would likely scare the Rays. I don’t see them making a move for him unless they can’t refuse the asking price, which would have to be lower.
The Rays do have two catchers not the 40-man roster, Nick Cuiffo and Michael Perez. In my opinion, Perez is more likely to be on the opening day roster compared to Ciuffo. Perez was very impressive at the plate and more importantly, behind the plate, until his year was ended early due to injury.
The Athletic’s Jim Bowden mentioned that the Rays have also checked in with the Marlin’s regarding J.T. Realmuto. It appears as though the Miami Marlins are looking for a 2-1 trade where they will get a top pitching prospect and position player prospect in return for the stud catcher. If this is the case, the Rays should be one of the front-runners in the Realmuto sweepstakes.
In 2018, the Marlins catcher hit .277 with 21 bombs and 74 runs batted in. His strikeout percentage was more than 17% better than Zunino. Realmuto also hit an additional homer and drove in 10 more runs with an OPS+ of 131.
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The real trade target the Rays should be pursuing this offseason is J.T. Realmuto, especially if the Marlins asking price is similar to what was reported. Not only do they acquire arguably the best catcher in baseball, but they would get him for 2 years, as Realmuto isn’t a free agent until 2021.