Tuesday, November 13, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays completing deal to get C Mike Zunino for OF Mallex Smith

UPDATE, 12:34 AM: The deal has been agreed to and barring any unexpected issues with final details or medical reports is likely to be announced  on Thursday.

UPDATE, 12:20 AM: The basic framework of the deal is Zunino and Heredia for Smith, but there are more players involved.

In the  current iteration, the Rays would also get LHP Michael Plassmeyer, a 2018 4th-round pick from Missouri who in his first 24 pro innings was 0-1, 2.25 at short-season Everett with 44 strikeouts and 4 walks and a .182 average, and would give up OF prospect Jake Fraley, a 2016 competitive-balance round pick from LSU. Fraley hit .347 with 4 homers, 41 RBI, and a .962 OPS.

DEVELOPING: The Rays might have already found the right-handed hitting catcher they are looking for in Seattle's Mike Zunino.

RELATED: 5 things to know about the Mike Zunino-Mallex Smith deal

The teams were working late Wednesday to complete a trade, which the Seattle Times was first to report, that would bring the defensively skilled veteran catcher plus outfielder Guillermo Heredia to the Rays in exchange for outfielder Mallex Smith and perhaps a prospect. MLB Network's Ken Rosenthal also reported the teams were in agreement pending a review of medical records.

The framework of the deal has been in place, with some details still to be worked out and the possibility it could be announced as soon as Thursday. Rays officials, who tend to wait for deals to be completed before discussing, would not comment.

Zunino, a Cape Coral native and University of Florida product, won the Wilson defensive player of the year award for catchers, another indication of the solid work he has done behind the plate for the Mariners over 5 1/2 seasons.

Zunino, 27, has not been as consistent offensively, hitting .201 last season with 150 strikeouts, but also slugging 20 homers with 44 RBIs and a .669 OPS. The year before, though, he hit .251 with 25 homers, 64 RBIs and an .840 OPS, though fanning 160 times.

Heredia, 25, has been the fourth outfielder for the Mariners, not providing much offense but strong defense, which would help fill the void in trading Smith.

Smith, 25, had a breakout season for the Rays in 2018, hitting .296 with a .367 on-base percentage in becoming an offensive force from the leadoff spot. He played all three outfield positions and showed improvement in that part of his game as well.

But the Rays already have two lefty-hitting outfielders they plan to play in 2019 in Kevin Kiermaier and Austin Meadows, and have righty-hitting Tommy Pham.

Zunino is eligible for arbitration and projected to make $4.2 million, and is under team control through 2020. Smith just missed Super 2 arbitration eligibility and is under team control through 2022.  The Rays got Smith in January 2017 in the Drew Smyly deal with the Mariners, who obtained him earlier that day from Atlanta.

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