Per a report from the Seattle Times, and beginning to be confirmed by others, the Rays are nearing a trade of Mallex Smith to the Seattle Mariners for catcher Mike Zunino and outfielder Guillermo Heredia.
Sources: The Rays and Mariners are finalizing a deal that would send C Mike Zunino and OF Guillermo Heredia to Tampa Bay for OF Mallex Smith. Still pending medicals, etc., so it's not official yet. @RyanDivish had deal first and @Ken_Rosenthal first mentioned Zunino to Rays.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) November 8, 2018
Mallex Smith was infamously a Mariner for 77 minutes as Tampa Bay and their most frequent trade partner the Mariners ironed out what was essentially a three team trade built around Drew Smyly.
So in a way, Smith could be returning from whence he came.
Mallex Smith had his best season in 2018 while filling in for the injured Kevin Kiermaier, providing a steadying presence in the Rays outfield and a 117 wRC+ over 141 games. Known for his gold chain representing the state of Florida and for his disproportionate impact on the base paths, Smith was a constant joy to follow in the 2018 season.
Zunino would be the prize of this deal, representing a top talent at the backstop in a relatively barren market for his position. Coming off a down year offensively, Zunino is well regarded for his receiving and defense, and has two years remaining on his rookie contract.
Here’s what JT Morgan had to say about the right handed hitting Zunino earlier this week:
Mike Zunino strikes out. That shouldn’t be expected to change. His 2018 wasn’t up to the standard he set in 2016-17. 84 wRC+ is about average for a catcher. Most of his poor 2018 results as a hitter can be explained by his 58 wRC+ vs LHP.
In 2016-17 he put up a 137 wRC+ in both seasons against LHP. Last year he put up a 99 wRC+ against RHP. He’s not a guy who must be platooned, but the Rays would need him to bounce back against LHP to help out their left handed options behind the plate.
Even with the down year at the plate he put up 1.3 WARP in 405 plate appearances, because he gets work done defensively. He’s one of the better options that might be reasonably available. Zunino is expected to make $4.2MM in his second trip through arbitration with two years of team control remaining.
The third overall pick of the 2012 draft, Zunino does indeed strike out a ton — approx. 37% overall — but his defense has proven to be award worthy.
Heredia, also entering his age 28 season, is regarded as an above average defender and runner, but recorded -9 DRS in center field in 2018 in a part time role.
Also hitting from the right side, he provided a mere 89 wRC+ over 337 plate appearances, looking overexposed at the plate with more playing time. A native of Cuba, Heredia will not be arbitration eligible until 2020 but will require a 40-man roster spot.
As details are worked out in the trade, it’s possible the teams will ask each other to include another piece or two.
Hear medicals still have to be completed and that besides Mallex Smith, Zunino, Heredia, there are 2 minor leaguers involved in the #Mariners #Rays deal -- 1 going each way, those names also being finalized.— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) November 8, 2018
We will continue to cover the trade as information breaks.