The Cleveland Guardians signed one of the best catchers available, Mike Zunino, for just $6 million on a one-year prove it deal.
At first look, $6 million may seem like a lot for a guy coming off thoracic outlet syndrome surgery just a year ago.
Mike Zunino played in just 36 games last season and struggled at the plate when he did. Zunino slashed just .148/.195/.304 in 2022 before needing surgery. However, his defensive ability is what sets Zunino apart from others on the market.
Cleveland Guardians sign Mike Zunino
Cleveland missed out on Sean Murphy, as the Braves acquired the Athletics catcher in a three-team trade on Monday. In response, the Guardians acted quickly, signing Zunino to an affordable contract.
Zunino made the All-Star Game with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2021, displaying a surprising amount of power with 33 home runs. The 32-year-old also has a 101 wRC+ against left-handed pitching, so he can be relied upon at the dish as well.
Are the Guardians set at catcher?
Given Zunino’s injury history, it’d be smart for Cleveland to have some reliable depth at the position. This is where the likes of Bo Naylor and Meibrys Viloria, who Cleveland signed on Sunday, come in. Viloria will turn 26 this season and is solid enough defensively to cut it in short-term stints at the MLB level when called upon.
Naylor, meanwhile, has the Guardians keeping an eye toward their minor-league system, as he can set himself apart as the backstop of the future for a talented Cleveland starting rotation.
Why didn’t the Guardians trade for Sean Murphy?
An affordable, talented catcher under club control for years to come is right down the Guardians alley, but the Athletics were reportedly asking for a lot in return for Sean Murphy. While the overall return seems affordable, keep in mind that the Braves had to get another team involved — the Milwaukee Brewers — just to make this trade a reality.
Cleveland would’ve sent half their farm to Oakland for Murphy. Signing Zunino to a short-term deal and awaiting further instruction isn’t a bad backup plan by any means.