The Tampa Bay Rays are closing in a potential two year deal with veteran catcher Mike Zunino, first reported by Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The first year of the deal is expected to pay Zunino around $4.5M with an option that could equal that or be a little above it in 2021.
BREAKING: #Rays working to finalize deal to sign Zunino to 1-year contract for $4.5M, with 2021 option worth $4.5-5.25M. Clearly banking on offensive rebound from former #Mariners catcher. Announcement possible later today. More soon on tampabay dot com.— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) November 25, 2019
The Rays acquired Zunino last offseason in a five player trade with the Seattle Mariners, in which they also netted Guillermo Heredia. Zunino struggled mightily with the Rays as he played in 90 games and mustered a line of .165/.232/.312 over 289 plate appearances.
This would have been Zunino’s last foray into arbitration and he was projected by MLB Trade Rumors to make around $4.5M. Zunino’s 2019 campaign was his 7th season in the Major Leagues, and during his career he has shown tremendous pop (averaged 18 HR a season from 2014 to 2018), the Rays are hoping for that to return in 2020.
The Rays are gambling that Zunino will have a bounceback year offensively and then the option could possibly be excellent value should Zunino return to his former ways; if Zunino struggles, then the Rays can cut bait instead of exercising the option.
Prior to signing Zunino, the Rays had been in talks to bring back Travis d’Arnaud, before he signed a two year deal with the Atlanta Braves over this past weekend.