Seattle Mariners Should Extend Mike Zunino Now


In a season of abject disappointment for the Seattle Mariners, one bright star shone above all the rest. That event was the emergence of Mike Zunino, going from borderline backup to All-Star caliber catcher.

Even to the casual Mariners fan, the story of Mike Zunino is well-known. Sent to the minor leagues on May 5 after starting the season with an abysmal .167/.250/.236 slash, Zunino went to work and completely reworked his swing.

He returned to the Major Leagues on May 23 a proceeded to post a .270/.349/.571 line in the last 100 games of 2017. Along with the impressive ratio’s, Zunino bashed 25 homers and 20 doubles in that stretch. The 25 homers ranked as 3rd most among catchers in all of baseball, as did his whopping 3.6 fWAR.

Perhaps more surprising to Mariners fans was his 9.0 BB% which ranked 13th among catchers in 2017. While you cannot ignore his dismal first month, the final slash of .250/.331/.509 is more than encouraging.

All of these factors bring us to our topic of discussion, a possible extension for Zunino. Currently, Zunino is entering the off-season as an arbitration eligible player for the first time. He is projected to earn $3.2 million this off-season. A modest price for an average starter, it is a steal of a deal if Zunino can repeat his 2017 progress.

However, if he does repeat the 2017 season in 2018, the price in arbitration doubles, and the likelihood of an extension takes a tumble. Let’s say the current price on an extension is 4 years, $20 million. If Zunino crashes and burns, the $5 million per year is easy enough to eat. At 27 years of age, the Mariners have bought a quality backup for his age 27-30 season.

If Zunino repeats, or continues to improve, it becomes one of the best deals in baseball. The opportunity to land an All-Star catcher in the prime of his career is a juicy proposition. The Mariners only need to fortitude to make a deal happen.

A 4 year deal buys out 1 year of free agency, and could save the Mariners $4-$6 million. For Zunino, the deal gives him $20 + million of security, and the opportunity to hit the free agent market at the age of 30.

Next: Jake Arrieta and the Seattle Mariners Part 1

An extension at the right number can be a true win-win for player and team. The Mariners need good news, and rewarding one of their own players can send a powerful message. The Mariners failed for years to develop their players. Now, they have a shinning example of what they can do, and now is the time to pay off that message. Now is the time to extend Mike Zunino.