Sunday, November 18, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

5 things about the Rays’ Mike Zunino-Mallex Smith deal

Five things about the trade between the Rays and Mariners agreed to late Wednesday, with the Rays getting C Mike Zunino, OF Guillermo Heredia and 2008 draftee LHP Michael Plassmeyer, and the Mariners getting OF Mallex Smith and OF prospect Jake Fraley. Assuming all goes well the medicals and other details, an announcement seems likely on Thursday.

1. The Rays were aggressive in filling one of their primary needs. In Mike Zunino, they have the RH-hitting catcher they sought to pair with Michael Perez and give them a solid two-way duo. And they did well to get someone as strong defensively as Zunino, who earlier Wednesday won the Wilson award as the top defensive catcher in the majors, rather than signing a veteran free agent. Zunino led all catchers with 12 defensive runs saved, per fangraphs.com, and caught 18 of 52 basestealers, a 34.6 rate. His .998 fielding percentage was third best in the Al, and fifth in the majors, among qualifying catchers. His 3.86 catcher ERA was fifth in the AL. Offensively, the Rays would be happy with something between his rough 2018, when he hit .201, 20 HRs, 44 RBIs, .669 OPS, and his solid 2017, with .251, 25, 64, .840

2. The Rays sold (they hope) high on Mallex Smith. Once the Rays acquired lefty-swinging Austin Meadows from Pittsburgh in the July 31 Chris Archer trade, Smith seemed to be the odd man out as it would be clunky to carry three lefty-hitting outfielders. But then Smith played so well down the stretch that you wondered if they would be worried about sending him elsewhere. Smith was impressive, hitting .296 with 27 doubles, 10 triples and 40 steals, posting a .367 on-base percentage as part of a .773 OPS, developing into a legit force at the top of the order. He made improvements defensively as well, though there will were the occasional moments when the Mallex effect was not a good thing. In essence, the Rays are gambling that he won't be as good consistently going forward. Though Smith became something of a fan favorite, trading him always seemed more likely then parting ways with franchise face Kevin Kiermaier.

3. Guillermo Heredia is a key part of the deal. The Rays see Heredia as a smooth defender capable of playing all three positions well, and providing the depth they will need behind the likely starting trio of Tommy Pham, Kiermaier and Meadows. Think of Heredia, a Cuban, as filling a role similar to what Smith did previously, but as a right-handed hitter. Heredia hasn't been a major contributor offensively, but the Rays are hoping he found something in September, when he hit .414 with a 1.169 OPS over his final 18 games.

4. There's something about Jerry. Rays GM Erik Neander and Mariners counterpart Jerry DiPoto have a good relationship, mutual respect, similar ways of valuing players. And they obviously can relate to each other well. This was the 10th deal between the teams since DiPoto took over as GM of the Mariners in September 2015. That included the January 2017 deal when the Rays got LHP Ryan Yarbrough, minor-league SS Carlos Vargas and Smith, who had been acquired earlier in the day from Atlanta. Smith had good humor about the situation, referring to his time in Seattle as "some of the best 77 minutes of my life. It was awesome. The environment was crazy. It was electric. … I'm still getting fan mail from the Mariners fans about all the work I put in over there." The previous deal between the teams had been the biggest, with the Rays sending closer Alex Colome and outfielder Denard Span to Seattle last May for two minor-leaguers.

5. It was a good first step for the Rays in spending money to improve. With a youth-laden roster allowing them to field a team for less than $30 million, the Rays clearly have financial flexibility. And they willing to use some of that in acquiring Zunino, who is projected to make $4.2 million this season via arbitration and  will be eligible again in 2020 before heading to free agency, in exchange for Smith, who won't be eligible for arbitration until 2020 and free agency until 2023. Of course, the bigger issue will be whether the Rays are willing to get into the bidding from some of the higher-shelf hitters they are talking about, a group led by Nelson Cruz that also includes Josh Donaldson and Andrew McCutchen. The Zunino deal did indicate they weren't  going to be players for Miami C J.T. Realmuto, most likely a reflection that they weren't going to give up the prospects and young players. The two-for-one swap of big-leaguers will fill the Rays 40-man roster, as they will need room by Nov. 20 to add a likely four-six prospects.

Comments
Rays Tales: Does Blake Snellís Cy Young salvage the 2011 draft?

Rays Tales: Does Blake Snellís Cy Young salvage the 2011 draft?

For all the misses the Rays had in the 2011 draft, Snell has been a pretty big hit. Is that enough?
Published: 11/17/18
Cubs/ex-Rays manager Joe Maddon again helping Tampa Bay area homeless with Thanksmas events

Cubs/ex-Rays manager Joe Maddon again helping Tampa Bay area homeless with Thanksmas events

Maddon and his Respect 90 Foundation will provide PDQ meals, backpacks and socks at several area centers.
Published: 11/15/18
Updated: 11/16/18
Rays Cy Young winner Blake Snell shares a secret to his success

Rays Cy Young winner Blake Snell shares a secret to his success

Blake Snell had special thanks for Kyle Snyder, who has been his pitching coach and confidant at several levels.
Published: 11/15/18
What theyíre saying about Rays Blake Snell winning the AL Cy Young award

What theyíre saying about Rays Blake Snell winning the AL Cy Young award

Here was the scene at Blake Snell's house in Seattle when they got news of his victory:The moment @snellzilla4 and his crew got the #CyYoung news. pic.twitter.com/iIukJZlHL5— MLB (@MLB) November 14, 2018Here is what some of Snell's teammates ha...
Published: 11/15/18
10 things about Rays Blake Snellís Cy Young winning season

10 things about Rays Blake Snellís Cy Young winning season

LHP Blake Snell accomplished a lot in his remarkable 2018 breakout season. And wining the American League Cy Young award on Wednesday added to that list:* He became the second Ray win the most prestigious pitching award, joining David Price, who did ...
Published: 11/15/18
Times baseball writer Marc Topkin talks about ‘Twenty Years of Rays Baseball’ book

Times baseball writer Marc Topkin talks about ‘Twenty Years of Rays Baseball’ book

Covering the team long before it played its first game gave him the background to become the Rays’ historian.
Published: 11/15/18
That Kate Upton tweet youíve been waiting for on Blake Snell winning AL Cy Young award

That Kate Upton tweet youíve been waiting for on Blake Snell winning AL Cy Young award

Model/actress Kate Upton had plenty to say in 2016 when then fiance Justin Verlander missed out on winning the AL Cy Young award due in part to the votes of the two Tampa Bay writers, posting an extraordinarily profane, and extremely memorable, tweet...
Published: 11/14/18
Updated: 11/15/18
Raysí Blake Snell wins AL Cy Young award

Raysí Blake Snell wins AL Cy Young award

ST. PETERSBURG – Blake Snell first started thinking about it at the end of last season, then more as spring training drew near. He shared first with teammate Chris Archer on the phone, then later with Rays pitching coach Kyle Snyder over a Janu...
Published: 11/14/18
Rays coaching update: Linares may be in, Sandberg in talks

Rays coaching update: Linares may be in, Sandberg in talks

The Rays are closing in on hiring a third-base coach, with longtime Astros minor-league coach/manager Rodney Linares the leading candidate.Discussions remaining ongoing to fill the other opening on the staff for a major-league field coordinator, with...
Published: 11/14/18
What it means if Blake Snell wins Cy Young award

What it means if Blake Snell wins Cy Young award

If Rays LHP Blake Snell wins the Cy Young* He will be the second Ray to do so, matching David Price in 2012, and also join Price as second from an AL East team in the last 15 years.* He will be the youngest, at 25, since Clayton Kershaw (25) in 2013 ...
Published: 11/14/18