MLB free agency: Mike Zunino would provide Phillies good D but a whole lotta K’s

Jim Salisbury
·2 min read

This free-agent catcher would provide Phillies good D but a whole lotta K’s originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

The Phillies spent over $700 million on free agents the last three offseasons. Spending all over baseball could be impacted this winter by revenues lost because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that's not going to stop us from taking a daily look these next few weeks at some free agents who would fill needs and help the Phillies get better.

Today: Catcher Mike Zunino

Career to date

Zunino was a star at the University of Florida and the Seattle Mariners made him the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 draft. He has big power, but making contact is an issue. His lifetime batting average in 2,226 career at-bats in just .200.

Zunino makes up for his offensive shortcomings with his defensive prowess and ability to lead a pitching staff.

2020 season

Zunino missed time with an oblique strain and was limited to just 25 regular season starts for the American League Champion Tampa Bay Rays. He had just 11 hits in 75 at-bats (.147) but four of those hits were doubles and four were homers. He struck out a staggering 44 percent of the time. He threw out four of 15 would-be base stealers, 27 percent.

It was telling that the Rays rode Zunino as their everyday catcher in the postseason. That’s how highly they valued his work behind the plate.

“The intangible benefits of him for the staff and the work he did behind the plate were a huge reason for our success,” general manager Erik Neander told the Tampa Bay Times.

Zunino hit just .170 (9 for 53) and struck out 27 times in the postseason. Four of his nine hits were homers.

How he’d impact the Phillies

If J.T. Realmuto signs elsewhere, the Phillies will find themselves scrambling for catching. Zunino would represent a huge drop in offense, one the Phillies probably could not afford even with the impact he’d have behind the plate.

Free agent James McCann, profiled earlier, would be the best fit to replace Realmuto with Andrew Knapp as the backup.  Someone like Kurt Suzuki would also bring more offense than Zunino.

Contract outlook

Zunino will play at 30 next season. The Rays declined his $4.5 million contract option for 2021 and may re-sign him at a lower rate. He would not be expensive on a one-year deal.

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