ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (Tampa Bay Rays Communications) — The Tampa Bay Rays have agreed to terms with catcher Mike Zunino on a $4.5 million contract for the 2020 season, avoiding arbitration. The deal includes a 2021 club option worth another $4.5 million, with the potential to grow to $5.25 million with incentives.
Zunino (zoo-NEE-no), 28, appeared in 90 games (78 starts) for the Rays in 2019, batting .165/.232/.312 (44-for-266) with 10 doubles, nine home runs and 32 RBI. He was on the paternity list, April 19-21, for the birth of his first child, son Rhett Michael, and the 10-day IL, May 9-30, with a left quad strain. He threw out 34.1 pct. (14 of 41) of attempted base stealers, the third-best eraser rate in the majors behind Philadelphia’s J.T. Realmuto (43.0), who won the National League Gold Glove at catcher, and Cleveland’s Roberto Pérez (37.0), the American League Gold Glove winner. According to FanGraphs, Zunino’s 10 Defensive Runs Saved ranked third among AL catchers, behind Pérez (29) and Toronto’s Danny Jansen (12). He was on the Rays postseason roster for both the Wild Card Game at the Oakland Athletics and Division Series against the Houston Astros but did not appear in a game.
Zunino was acquired by the Rays in a five-player trade with the Seattle Mariners on November 8, 2018. Over seven seasons in the majors, he is a career .202/.271/.395 (435-for-2,151) hitter with 104 home runs and 273 RBI, including a combined 45 home runs over the 2017-18 seasons with Seattle. He has thrown out 23.8 pct. (86 of 361) of attempted base stealers, and was named the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year at catcher following the 2018 season.
Zunino was born in Cape Coral, Fla., where he graduated from Mariner High School in 2009. He was selected by the Mariners in the first round (third overall) of the 2012 June Draft out of the University of Florida, and remains the highest-drafted player in school history. He led the Gators to the College World Series each of his three seasons there, was named 2011 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year and in 2012 earned the Golden Spikes Award, Dick Howser Trophy and Johnny Bench Award.