Mariners may need to look for a new option to play catcher
The Mariners have a real problem. Well they have lots of problems, but there’s one that hasn’t yet shown signs of being fixed.
There’s a big hole at the number eight spot in the Mariners lineup; Mike Zunino’s spot. He has been miserable this year. Currently hitting .167 with an OBP of .250, slugging .236, he’s become a liability at the plate.
More from Mariners News
- Mariners have acquired Kolton Wong from the Brewers
- Mariners offseason thoughts: The Good with Jarred Kelenic
- Mariners Should Add Matt Moore to Los Bomberos
- Seattle Mariners Pitcher Matt Brash Is Working On A Cutter
- Could The Seattle Mariners Send A Pitcher To The Baltimore Orioles?
Now most of y’all probably demand I clarify that and say he’s a liability next to the dish. You’ll want me to talk about how his defensive contributions makes up for the poor hitting.
*breaking news bulletin jingle*
In 2016 it may have. Zunino boasted a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage. He was in the top 20% in the league in pitcher ERA, catcher runs above average, and checked in at 6th in runs saved. That’s a quality defensive catcher, well making up for his .207 average.
In 2017, though, he sits 37/38 in catcher runs above average and 22nd in ERA and runs saved. For the record, he’s on pace to save -11 runs this year. In a similar amount of games played this far, Toronto’s Russell Martin and Los Angeles’s Martin Maldonado are on pace to save 27 and 25 runs respectively.
If his hitting isn’t good, and his defense isn’t good, why is he in the lineup?
Quite simply, he’s the Mariners best option. Carlos Ruiz is the only other player available on the big league roster, but Chooch’s slash line is even worse than Zunino’s (.136/.321/.182). With every game that passes without the Mariners switching things up, they sacrifice potential runs. Currently, there are 4 M’s who are hitting above .300, plus Cano, Seager and a surging Valencia who seems to be figuring things out in 2017. When all 7 guys ahead of the catcher’s spot are viable threats to get on, an empty bat kills scoring opportunities.
So what can the Mariners do to fix this?
The Mariners could call up Tuffy Gosewich. He’s the current Rainiers’ starting catcher and is on the 40-man roster. He’s only hitting .240, but compared to Zunino and Ruiz he looks like Mookie Betts. During his last stint in the MLB, with Arizona last season, he only hit .156. If he’s going to hit like that in Seattle, we might as well stick with Zunino.
Steve Baron may be a possible option. He’s Gosewich’s backup in Tacoma, and has hit .280 over nine games. The exact same average he posted over the duration of last season in Jackson. While not as likely a call-up as Gosewich, he’s there, and could maybe get the nod if the Mariners see something in him.
Jerry Dipoto: dealer extraordinaire
Anything can happen when Jerry is at the helm of this team. Two possible names that I could see him going after are Stephen Vogt of the A’s and Derek Norris of the Padres. For the record, this is not a rumor, there is no substance to this, I’m just saying both of these guys seem like Dipoto targets and they’re producing better than the Mariners’ current catchers.
Vogt is hitting .222 this season with a homer and five RBIs, not giant-slaying numbers, but serviceable. This is Vogt’s worst year so far, which could mean he’s washed up, but I think it’s just an early season slump. In every big league season besides 2017, he has a Batting Average on Balls In Play above .275. He’s fairly cheap, as he currently is only signed to a 1 yr/2.97 million dollar contract. The Athletics’ outfield is a mess, and the Mariners could trade some of their depth to acquire Vogt.
Next: Seattle Mariners: 3 up, 3 down v. LAA
Norris is the other name that sticks out to me. While only hitting .213, he has a homer and nine RBIs. Coming off of a poor 2016 campaign, the Mariners may be able to get him at a lower cost than a year ago at this time.
Some solution has to be found by Dipoto and Servais, though. If they want this team in contention a few months from now, they have to remove Zunino from the everyday role, and give that position to someone other than Carlos Ruiz.
Zunino was optioned to AAA Tacoma this evening, and Gosewich was recalled to the big league club. Expect him to see his share of ABs.