FREE AGENT TARGET: MARTÍN MALDONADO
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.