Earlier today, it was reported by many that the Seattle Mariners were strongly considering a sell-off. It is an understandable position for Seattle given that they have an aging roster and while they were certainly not bad this past season, it was unlikely that they were going to be better in 2019, their farm system did not have a ton of help coming, and being an above average team but not more in this day and age is a terrible position to be in as an organization. If you are not in the position to make the playoffs nor are you in a position to bring in high-end young talent in the draft....well, the results can be get ugly and can linger.
Anyways, as a result, the Mariners have begun talks with a lot of teams to see what the trade market looks like to see if a sell-off makes sense for them. The Mariners have a lot interesting pieces including James Paxton, Mitch Haniger, and Edwin Diaz to move if they want to, but the first name to emerge so far in concrete talks was catcher Mike Zunino.
Among #Mariners’ many discussions, per sources: Talks with #Rays about catcher Mike Zunino. TB has only two Cs on 40-man - Nick Ciuffo and Michael Perez, who have played 40 games combined in MLB. Only other SEA catcher on M’s 40-man is David Freitas, who has played 42 MLB games.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 6, 2018
As Rosenthal notes, the interest from the Rays is understandable. Once Wilson Ramos was traded away during the 2018 season, not many good options exist internally for the Rays at the moment. Combine that with a strong finish to the 2018 season and the presence of some young studs such as Blake Snell, and Willy Adames, and Joey Wendle and the team has a very real chance to make some noise in 2019.
For Seattle, it becomes trickier as the return is going to have to be good enough to justify not having particularly exciting options at catcher themselves if they were to trade Zunino away. That said, a decent return for Zunino is likely to be enough for Seattle to pull the trigger as they are clearly taking the idea of punting on the 2019 season seriously at the moment.
Mike Zunino posted a 1.5 fWAR season in 2018 with 20 home runs while slashing .201/.259/.410 in 113 games this past season and he is only a season removed from a 3.5 fWAR season where he posted a significantly better .251/.331/.509 line. Moreover, he looked improved defensively in 2018 where he accumulated 12 defensive runs saved and improved his caught stealing percentages over the 2017 season.