Mariner grad Mike Zunino traded from Seattle Mariners to the Tampa Bay Rays

Mariner grad Mike Zunino traded from Seattle Mariners to the Tampa Bay Rays
Mariners get Mallex Smith in 5-player trade with Rays
“THIS. GAME. IS. OVERRRR!” was heard through the Seattle Mariners airwaves as Mike Zunino shattered Edgar’s sign over the left field fence on a 2-out fastball. The fans that remained at Safeco Field saw a magical moment.

In hindsight, it was the last walk-off home run Mike Zunino would hit in a Mariners uniform. Jerry Dipoto shipped Zunino and outfielder Guillermo Heredia to the Rays in return for OF Mallex Smith Wednesday afternoon. And while the Mariners will begin their search for a new catcher, fans will miss Zunino’s skills behind the plate.

The Rays sent Smith and minor league outfielder Jake Fraley to Seattle in exchange for catcher Mike Zunino, outfielder Guillermo Heredia and minor league left-handed pitcher Michael Plassmeyer.

Mallex Smith dealt to Seattle Mariners by Tampa Bay Rays for Mike Zunino and Guillermo Heredia

Despite his expertise as a catcher, he will be widely remembered for his offensive struggles, most recently in 2018. A hot month of September lifted Zunino to a slash line of .201/.259/.410, just above the dreaded Mendoza line. Unfortunately, these numbers are not out of the ordinary. A massive bounce-back year just isn’t likely, as his career numbers are .207/.276/.406.

Smith, 25, stole a career-best 40 bases this year for the Tampa Bay Rays. He hit .296, tied for the major league lead with 10 triples and had 40 RBIs.

Offensive catchers are hard to come by. I get it. It is exactly why I am not here to slam his batting. In fact, his power is extremely valuable in addition to his defense, making him a strong replacement for Wilson Ramos in Tampa Bay.

I am here to praise Mike Zunino and his efforts in Seattle. The man is a walking backstop. His ability to work with pitchers and call games will be missed. A class act player like Zunino will be hard to replace, regardless of whom the Mariners sign to replace him this winter.

Starting 2019 Fraley should be the CF for the AA-Arkansas Travelers, bumping Kyle Lewis to a corner outfield position in all likelihood. Thats a shame for Lewis, who mightve always made that move, but wouldve been more convincing with collateral ligaments in the preferred positions for human beings. By all accounts, Fraleys defense in center is more than adequate, and in fact earned him the Best Defensive Outfielder superlative from Baseball America for the Rays stacked system after 2017. His foot speed plays a role in that, and should also be considered a plus, and when healthy he has put up well above-average stolen base numbers and percentages. This year, those baserunning numbers were unsatisfactory, so the Ms will hope to see him rebound at full health. What needs to be there for Fraley to exceed the 4th OF archetype Heredia fell into is to hit, and last year, at least, he did just that!

We thank you for the 575 games you suited up for in a Mariners uniform. We thank you for more than the 95 home runs you hit, but for the 40 defensive runs, you saved behind the plate. And most importantly, we wish you luck in Tampa Bay, where you will represent a team that is just 113 miles from your hometown of Cape Coral.

Beyond the actual players traded, this trade deals away psychological angst: Jerry Dipoto creates another fissure between his version of the Seattle Mariners and the roster he inherited, hurtling ever-nearer to the day that a clean break is made; and Zunino gets to lay down the burden of representing Mariner fans hopes and dreams for the future, a burden that grew heavier with each draft pick that flamed out. For Zunino, the trade to Tampa Bay represents a fresh start in his own backyard. His long, complicated, at times heart-wrenching history of player development in Seattle has come to an end.

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Oh, now, I don’t think this is a bad deal. In fact, it’s a pretty good one. Everyone is aware that catchers that hit and field are a rarity, but Zunino’s 2018 matched the baseball card, not 2017. In this ballpark, with these coaches, and this environment, Z will never improve his hitting. If he can eliminate being an automatic strikeout in the ugly confines of St. Petersburg, living close to home and batting more often in Yankee Stadium, Fenway, and other hitter-friendly parks, good for him (and shame on our coaching). The X-Kid is an exciting player that actually takes walks – a much stronger leadoff hitter than Dee, and Haniger can move back down the order where he’ll be more effective for the team. If Zunino were a “stud,” then the house was pretty rotten and rickety with no foundation. Maybe it still is. But if they can make that Paxton and Seager and $$ for Kelly/Knizner and 3-4 AA or AAA prospects from the Cardinals (who desperately need a 3B), we’ll be fine in the long run.

Does Mike Zunino trade indicate Mariners are beginning…

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The Mariners on Thursday announced that they have acquired the veteran outfielder and minor-league outfielder Jake Fraley from the Rays.

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