2. Yankees-Rays Trade: Mike Zunino
Are we positive the Rays want to pay $7 million for Mike Zunino in 2022? It was evident they were going to exercise his team option because of the career season he just had. Though he only appeared in 109 games, he got his first ever All-Star nod and finished with 33 homers, 62 RBI, an .860 OPS and 138 OPS+. On defense, he was good for a 0.6 dWAR and 7 Defensive Runs Saved.
The Yankees are in desperate need of defensive catching help, but this move would signal a drastic change. If a Zunino acquisition is at all under consideration, that means Gary Sánchez would more than likely be on the move because the Yankees are not paying $15 million for two catchers in 2022.
We posited this scenario earlier in the offseason, but that was before the Yankees tendered Sánchez a contract, which we thought might not have happened because of his lackluster defensive play coupled with his falling off a cliff offensively in the second half of 2021. Then again, a trade could still be on the table, though, and many fans probably wouldn’t rule it out until they see Sánchez behind the plate on Opening Day (or, we guess the second game of the season since he’s not going to catch Gerrit Cole).
Zunino profiles similarly to what Sánchez offers on offense (power, strikeouts, not great in clutch situations), except he’s much better on defense, and the Yankees front office likely realizes that. It’s just a matter of whether they want to part with Sánchez after sticking with him this long. Both guys will be free agents after 2022, and we can expect they’ll be elsewhere when the time comes.
We wouldn’t exactly endorse this, but it’s definitely not out of the question.