Isn’t the off-season awesome? Just minutes ago, Ryan Divish reported that the Seattle Mariners have agreed to trade Mike Zunino and Guillermo Heredia to the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for Mallex Smith.
The deal has not been announced by the Mariners or the Rays, and as of now, Divish is the only writer reporting this. However, there were previous reports that Jerry Dipoto and the Rays had talked Zunino, so the timeline works out.
Zunino, the third overall pick in the 2012 draft, and has been the starting catcher for the Mariners since 2014. Guillermo Heredia was one of the first signings of the Jerry Dipoto era and has been with the team since 2016.
Interestingly enough, Mallex Smith was a Seattle Mariners outfielder for just over an hour in the winter of 2016, before being traded to the Rays for Drew Smyly. With the Rays, the 25-year-old Smith has slashed .287/.354/.389 in 826 PAs.
Smith would qualify as a slap-hitting leadoff type. He stole 40 bases in 2018, but also led the league in getting caught, being thrown out 12 times. Smith is a solid defender who can play all 3 spots but ultimately has better metrics in CF than he does in a corner.
The move comes as a bit of a surprise since Mallex Smith is pre-arbitration and not due to become a free agent until after the 2022 season. On the surface, it seems like the type of player that traditionally cash poor Rays covet above all else.
While we don’t have the full picture of the deal quite yet, as reported, the deal would also save the Mariners about $4 million. The salary relief could be a major bonus for the Mariners, who have talked openly about shedding some payroll and taking a step back in 2019.
The deal does appear to leave a gaping hole at the catcher position, but for now, the Seattle Mariners have found their center fielder of 2019, and possibly the future. Stay tuned for more updates as the trade is finalized.