Rays Make Deal For Mike Zunino

ST. PETERSBURG (620 WDAE) -- The Tampa Bay Rays have confirmed that they have traded outfielder Mallex Smith and minor-league outfielder Jake Fraley to Seattle in exchange for catcher Mike Zunino, outfielder Guillermo Heredia and minor-league pitcher Michael Plassmeyer.

The press release from the team is below:

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (Tampa Bay Rays Communications) — The Tampa Bay Rays have acquired catcher Mike Zunino, outfielder Guillermo Heredia and minor league left-handed pitcher Michael Plassmeyer from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for outfielder Mallex Smith and minor league outfielder Jake Fraley.

Zunino (zoo-NEE-no), 27, hit .201/.259/.410 (75-for-373) with 20 home runs and 44 RBI in 113 games (102 starts) last season with the Mariners, his second consecutive season with at least 20 homers and third overall. He missed time due to a pair of stints on the disabled list, missing the first 17 games of the season with a strained left oblique and from July 5-21 with a left ankle bone bruise. Over the last two seasons, his 45 home runs rank fourth among major league catchers behind Salvador Pérez (54), Gary Sánchez (51) and Yasmani Grandal (46). According to FanGraphs, since the start of the 2017 season he ranks sixth among major league catchers with 5.1 Wins Above Replacement (WAR). Over parts of six seasons in the majors, he has hit .207/.276/.406 (391-for-1,885) with 95 home runs and 241 RBI.

Last night, Zunino was named the 2018 Wilson Defensive Player of the Year at catcher. The Wilson Defensive Player of the Year, which honors the top defensive player at each position across the majors, is determined by a combination of traditional defensive stats and advanced metrics. With Zunino and Kevin Kiermaier, who won the award for center field, the Rays are now the only team in baseball with two 2018 Wilson Defensive Players of the Year. According to FanGraphs, last season Zunino tied for first among American League catchers and tied for second among major league catchers with 12 Defensive Runs Saved. Among qualifying catchers, he ranked fifth in the majors and third in the AL with a .998 fielding pct. He threw out 29.2 pct. of potential base stealers, third in the AL among players to appear in at least 100 games at catcher.

Zunino was born in Cape Coral Fla., where he graduated from Mariner High School in 2009. He was selected by the Mariners in the first round (third overall) of the 2012 June Draft out of the University of Florida, and remains the highest-drafted player in school history. He led the Gators to the College World Series each of his three seasons there, was named 2011 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year and in 2012 earned the Golden Spikes Award, Dick Howser Trophy and Johnny Bench Award.

Heredia (her-ED-ee-uh), 27, hit .236/.318/.342 (69-for-292) with five home runs and 19 RBI in 125 games (88 starts) last season with the Mariners. He was with the major league club for three stints: Opening Day–April 21, May 1–August 18 and August 27 through the end of the season. He was one of five qualifying outfielders in the majors to record a 1.000 fielding pct., and joined Franklin Gutierrez in 2010 as the only Mariners outfielders to ever do that. He was named the Mariners recipient of the 2018 Heart and Hustle Award by the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association (MLBPAA). The Heart and Hustle Award honors active players who demonstrate a passion for the game of baseball and best embody its values, spirit and traditions. Over parts of three seasons in the majors, he has hit .244/.321/.336 (188-for-770). He played six seasons in Cuba before signing with the Mariners in March 2016.

Plassmeyer, 22, went 0-1 with a 2.25 ERA (24-IP, 6-ER) in 13 appearances (12 starts) last season with Short-A Everett, his first professional season. He recorded 44 strikeouts, good for a 16.50 strikeouts per nine innings ratio, and was named to the Northwest League midseason All-Star Team. He was selected by the Mariners in the fourth round of the 2018 June Draft out of the University of Missouri. In his final season at Missouri, he went 5-4 with a 3.05 ERA (91.1-IP, 31-ER) and 103 strikeouts in 14 starts.

Smith, 25, hit .296/.367/.406 (142-for-480) with 27 doubles, 10 triples, two home runs, 40 RBI and 40 stolen bases in 141 games (127 starts) for the Rays last year, his second season in the organization. He won the club’s Paul C. Smith Champion Award, given to the player who best exemplifies the spirit of true professionalism on and off the field, and was selected as the Rays nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award. He ranked third in the majors in stolen bases, and it was the most by a Ray since Carl Crawford (47) and Melvin Upton Jr. (42) in 2010. His 10 triples tied for the AL lead and his .296 avg. ranked 11th in the league. Over parts of three seasons in the majors, he has hit .277/.346/.384 (256-for-925) with 72 stolen bases. He was originally acquired by the Rays from the Mariners in a four-player trade involving Drew Smyly in January 2017.

Fraley, 23, hit .347/.415/.547 (78-for-225) with four home runs and 41 RBI in 66 games for Class-A Charlotte last season. He missed two months of the season with a left foot injury. Over parts of three seasons in the minors, he has hit .278/.359/

.435 (150-for-540) with seven home runs and 73 RBI. Following the 2017 season, he was ranked by Baseball America as the Best Defensive Outfielder in the organization. He was selected by the Rays in the Competitive Balance Round B of the 2016 June Draft out of Louisiana State University.

ORIGINAL POST, November 7: The Tampa Bay Rays appear to be on the verge of their first deal of the offseason.

The Rays and the Seattle Mariners, one of their most prolific trade partners, are close to a deal that would send outfielder Mallex Smith back to the Pacific Northwest, and in exchange would send catcher Mike Zunino and outfielder Guillermo Heredia to Tampa Bay.  Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times was first to report that the trade was being finalized.

Zunino, drafted third overall by the Mariners in 2012 out of the University of Florida, has struggled at the big league level hitting for the most part.  After a 2017 season that saw him hit .251 with 25 home runs, he barely got over the Mendoza line this past season, hitting .201 with 20 home runs, 44 RBI and 150 strikeouts in just 405 plate appearances and being sent back to Triple-A Tacoma for a period in 2018.

Smith, playing in his first full season at the Major League level in 2018, hit .296/.367/.406 with a pair of home runs and 40 RBI.  The 25-year-old also led the American League in triples with 10, and stole 40 bases, though he was caught a league-most 12 times.  He was acquired by the Rays from the Mariners on January 11, 2017 along with Ryan Yarbrough in the trade that sent Drew Smyly to Seattle.  The Mariners had acquired Smith earlier the same day from the Atlanta Braves.

Heredia played all three outfield positions for the Mariners in 2018, hitting .236/.318/.342 with five home runs and 19 RBI in 125 games, including 88 starts.

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