The Mariners made their first major roster move of the offseason this morning, sending catcher Mike Zunino and outfielder Guillermo Heredia to Tampa in exchange for outfielder Mallex Smith.
There were prospects in the deal, too. Tampa received left-handed pitcher Michael Plassmeyer, and the Mariners received Class-A outfielder Jake Fraley.
It’s difficult to picture the Mariners without Zunino, but here we are. He has been through many ups and downs during his six years as the Mariners erstwhile starting catcher, and has had trips to Tacoma during five of the last six seasons.
A great guy, Zunino has never been bitter or moody in the clubhouse during his numerous stints with the Rainiers, trying to fix his swing. He’s a team leader and a great defensive catcher. The organization is going to miss that aspect of his game.
Mallex Smith figures to slot in to center field. He’s a speedster, a good defensive player, and he’s coming off his best offensive season at age 25.
As for the prospect, look for Fraley to open the season at Double-A Arkansas – we’ll see him in Tacoma down the road. He was a second round draft pick out of LSU in 2016, had an injury-filled 2017 season, and then got it going in the second half last year at Advanced Class-A. He hit .347 for Charlotte, not much power, reportedly plays good defense. He was a little old for the level (23 last year) because injuries wiped out most of 2017 and the first half of his 2018 season.
The Mariners now have a desperate need for a catcher. David Freitas is the only one on the 40-man roster. The two catchers who finished the year in Triple-A are gone: Cameron Rupp is now a free agent, and Garrett Kennedy was released after the season. There isn’t anyone in the organization ready to play in the big leagues, other than Freitas.
This was just the first step for Seattle. There will be many more.
- Here’s the news story on the trade from the Seattle Times.
- Larry Stone has a column on the deal.
- Fangraphs takes a look at the move.