Seattle Mariners: 4 Catchers Who Could Replace Mike Zunino

PHOENIX, AZ - SEPTEMBER 03: Austin Hedges #18 of the San Diego Padres gestures to his dugout after hitting a two run single against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the eighth inning at Chase Field on September 3, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. Padres won 6-2. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, AZ - SEPTEMBER 03: Austin Hedges #18 of the San Diego Padres gestures to his dugout after hitting a two run single against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the eighth inning at Chase Field on September 3, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. Padres won 6-2. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /
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FREE AGENT TARGET: MARTÍN MALDONADO

HOUSTON, TX – OCTOBER 05: Martin Maldonado #15 of the Houston Astros hits a solo home run in the seventh inning against the Cleveland Indians during Game One of the American League Division Series at Minute Maid Park on October 5, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX – OCTOBER 05: Martin Maldonado #15 of the Houston Astros hits a solo home run in the seventh inning against the Cleveland Indians during Game One of the American League Division Series at Minute Maid Park on October 5, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /

For those worried about the absence of Mike Zunino’s defense, allow me to propose perhaps the best defensive catcher in all of baseball: Martín Maldonado. The 32-year-old backstop is hitting free agency after touring the AL West with the Angels and Astros, and he may wind up staying in the division if Seattle see him as a fit.

After winning a Gold Glove in 2017, Maldonado also finished as a finalist for the award in 2018. Not only did he earn that recognition through a handful of highlight plays and catching 17 of 35 attempted base stealers last season, he did it while beautifully handling two of baseball’s most complex rotations. Whether it be with the consistently fluctuating rotation of the Angels, or an Astros rotation that bolstered five superstars this past season, Maldonado knows how to break barriers and control his pitching staff.

The one drawback on Maldonado is that he’s even more offensively inept than Zunino. In seven MLB seasons, the highest wRC+ Maldonado has ever posted is 97, which he did twice in 2012 and 2014. Ever since, he’s hovered around the mid-70s and has gotten on base at an abysmal .276 clip over the past two seasons. Basically, a potential Maldonado signing comes down to what the Mariners value more from their catcher: defense or offense. You’re not signing Maldonado for his bat, but for as good as Zunino was behind the plate, Maldonado is that much better.

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