What are the Rays getting?
The Rays are getting the right-handed hitting catcher with pop that they wanted. He may be streaky at the plate, but the University of Florida product has hit 45 bombs over the past two seasons. He strikes out a ton and doesn’t really hit for average but has a fantastic defensive reputation.
Zunino Career 6.9 bWAR: .207 AVG/ .406 SLG/.276 OBP/89 OPS+/95 HR
2017 Zunino 3.3 bWAR: .251 AVG/25 HR/64 RBI/125 OPS+/ 36.8 K%
2018 Zunino 1.9 bWAR: .201 AVG/20 HR/44 RBI/85 OPS+/ 37 K%
*bWAR is short for Baseball Reference WAR
Zunino’s work behind the plate recently earned him the 2018 Wilson Defensive Catcher of the Year Award due to his defensive metrics behind the dish. In 2018 he tied for first among catchers with 12 defensive runs saved and caught 34.6% of runners stealing. He also has a great framing reputation.
Mike Zunino is in his second year of arbitration eligibility in which he is expected to make 4.2 million. He will have one more year of eligibility before he becomes a free agent in 2021.
What this means:
The Rays get the right-handed power hitting catcher they entered the offseason looking for. They get him at a cheaper price tag than Wilson Ramos, Yasmani Grandal, or J.T. Realmuto. They also get two years of control as they wait for Ronaldo Hernandez to continue his ascent through their farm system.
If he cuts down the strikeouts, his average will move in the right direction and we could see really good things from him at the plate as he would not only hit for power but for average just as he did in 2017. Hopefully, Zunino will return to his 2017 form at the plate while maintaining his defensive prowess behind the dish in 2019.
I like the acquisition… The Rays add a RH bat with power and defense, who comes with two years of control. Zunino will be a welcome addition to the Rays clubhouse in 2019 and beyond.