Tampa Bay Rays: Three catchers to target

CHICAGO - APRIL 08: Mike Zunino #10 of the Tampa Bay Rays catches against the Chicago White Sox on April 8, 2019 at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
CHICAGO - APRIL 08: Mike Zunino #10 of the Tampa Bay Rays catches against the Chicago White Sox on April 8, 2019 at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /
facebooktwitterreddit
Prev
1 of 3
Next
Tampa Bay Rays catcher Mike Zunino
(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

The Tampa Bay Rays will look to upgrade their catching corps this offseason.

Even after taking the Los Angeles Dodgers to six games in the World Series, the Tampa Bay Rays kick off the offseason in desperate need of catching.

Last year, the Rays saw three different players split time behind the plate. This trio, comprised of Mike Zunino, Michael Perez, and Kevan Smith, was a tale of two tapes. Defensively, you could call this group elite. Zunino and Perez each recorded a .996 fielding percentage in at least 28 games, while Smith was a perfect 1.000 in 16 games.

On the other hand, watching these guys at the plate was not fun. Last season, Tampa Bay catchers combined for a dismal batting average of .176 and only 32 hits in 205 plate appearances. Both those marks were good for 28th in the league.

The Rays front office kicked off the offseason but cleaning house at the position. Tampa Bay declined Zunino’s $4.5 million club option and waived both Perez and Smith. According to Juan Toribio of MLB.com, the Rays are interested in potentially bringing back either Zunino or Smith, but Perez has already been claimed by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Let’s check out three potential offseason targets for the Rays to upgrade at catcher.

Mike Zunino

The Rays would like to learn from their past mistakes. The biggest mistake in recent memory involving catchers? Tampa Bay let go of Travis d’Arnaud at the end of 2019 in an effort to prevent spending any considerable money. Of course, d’Arnaud went over to the Atlanta Braves and smashed baseballs at the plate. Last season, he hit .321, slugged .533, and knocked in nine home runs and 34 RBIs.

Unlike the situation in 2019, Tampa Bay could easily bring Zunino back for cheap. Last season, Zunino hit .147 with just 11 hits in 75 at-bats. His OBP was excruciating at .238 and he struck out 37 times.

Of course, this isn’t the prettiest option. But, a 29-year-old catcher that only hit better than .200 in half of his eight MLB seasons, Zunino would be cheap. And we all know that the Tampa Bay Rays enjoy keeping as much money in their pockets as possible.