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Rays bring back Mike Zunino on one-year deal with option for 2022, per report

The AL champs bring back their starting catcher.

MLB: World Series-Los Angeles Dodgers at Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Rays are bringing back catcher Mike Zunino, whose $4.5 million 2021 option they declined earlier this offseason, on a one-year, $3 million deal with a club option for 2022. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, the Tampa Bay Times’ Marc Topkin, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman were among those to report the news Thursday:

The value of Zunino’s option is dependent on how much he plays in 2021, which could in turn be influenced by whether and how much MLB owners reduce the schedule to save money ensure that players and staff are vaccinated before reporting to camp. Per Topkin, the option will be worth $4 million if he plays under 80 games, $5 million if he plays between 80-89 games, $6 million if he plays between 90-99 games, and $7 million if he plays 100 or more games. The Rays can buy him out for $1 million, so it seems likely that they’ll pull a similar move to what they did this offseason even if he has a strong 2021 season:

Zunino, who is generally known for his power and defense, had a rough 2020 season, hitting .147/.238/.360 with four homers in 84 plate appearances while posting a career-worst -2 defensive runs saved. He had some big moments in the postseason for the pennant-winning Rays, though, most notably during the ALCS, when he hit .278 with a .911 OPS and two homers.

Prospect Ronaldo Hernández, who hasn’t played above A-ball, is the only catcher on the Rays’ 40-man roster right now, so it appears likely that Zunino will be Tampa’s primary backstop again in 2021. It figures that they’ll also add at least one more catcher before spring training begins.