The Mariners and Rays have announced a deal that sends catcher Mike Zunino and outfielder Guillermo Heredia and Minor League lefty Michael Plassmeyer to Tampa Bay for Rays outfielder Mallex Smith and Minor League outfielder Jake Fraley.The deal comes mere days after Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said the team
The Mariners and Rays have announced a deal that sends catcher Mike Zunino and outfielder Guillermo Heredia and Minor League lefty Michael Plassmeyer to Tampa Bay for Rays outfielder Mallex Smith and Minor League outfielder Jake Fraley.
The deal comes mere days after Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said the team feels "a little short in the outfield, particularly center field," calling it "an area we need to address."
Smith, who missed Super Two status this year, won't be eligible for arbitration until next offseason, and he won't become a free agent until after the 2022 season. Acquiring him helps Seattle shed payroll and address a specific need.
The club played Dee Gordon in center for the bulk of last season before second baseman Robinson Cano was suspended for 80 games upon violating the terms of Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, at which point Gordon moved back to second.
The Mariners acquired Smith along with right-hander Shae Simmons from the Braves on Jan. 11, 2017, only to flip Smith to the Rays with shortstop Carlos Vargas and left-hander Ryan Yarbrough in exchange for lefty Drew Smyly, who has since gone to the Cubs and Rangers. Smith was a member of the Mariners for just 77 minutes.
Zunino, who regressed to a .201/.259/.410 slash line with 20 homers over 113 games last year, on Wednesday won the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Award at catcher. He struggled through an injury-plagued season in which he was placed on the disabled list separately for a strained left oblique and a left ankle bone bruise. Zunino is eligible for salary arbitration for the second time this year, and he will become a free agent after the 2020 season.
Zunino hails from Cape Coral, Fla., roughly two hours south of St. Petersburg. He was the third overall pick by Seattle in the 2012 Draft out of the University of Florida.
Heredia, who logged 646 2/3 innings in center field last year and was the club's fourth outfielder, hit .236/.318/.342. He figures to fit into a similar role with the Rays, at least with their current roster construction, with Tommy Pham in left, Kevin Kiermaier in center and Austin Meadows being groomed for right. Heredia has logged just over two years of service time, meaning he won't become arbitration eligible until after next season and will remain under club control through the 2022 season.
These teams have a lengthy transaction history, as this marks their eighth trade since Dipoto was hired in September 2015. The most recent deal between the two was last May 25, when the Rays sent closer Alex Colome and veteran outfielder Denard Span to Seattle for Minor League right-hander Tommy Romero and righty Andrew Moore.
Daniel Kramer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @DKramer_.