The Cleveland Guardians have signed Mike Zunino.
The Cleveland Guardians are adding power to the lineup one way or another. After sitting out the Sean Murph extortion talks with the Oakland A’s, the Guardos shifted gears and signed free agent slugger Mike Zunino, who had a few decent years with the Tampa Bay Rays as both a defensive-minded catcher and a home run hitter.
The club got him for one year, at $6 million.
And a massive strike-out liability. Zunino has the power to hit 40 home runs in a season with a full-time schedule, but could also have Adam Dunn-like strikeout ratios if he plays that much as well. He is all boom and so much bust.
He’s Franmil Reyes on steroids. Zunino is one of those guys where you’re surprised that he has hits that aren’t extra-base hits. In 2021, his last healthy season, he had more home runs than singles, 33 home runs to 26 singles. He also had nearly two times as many strikeouts as hits, with 132 strikeouts to 72 hits.
He’s also on par, if not better than Murphy defensively. That’s important, as it’s not going to be easy to replace Austin Hedges behind the plate, as Hedges himself was a great defensive player. At the plate, a turnip could’ve replaced Hedges. But behind it? You’re going to need a great defender.
Mike Zunino bucks Cleveland Guardians’ offensive mindset but adds a needed piece
You could probably combine strikeouts from any three players from last year’s team and they’d have a lower strikeout total than Zunino. Maybe not, but I’m being hyperbolic to prove a point; Zunino strikeouts out like he is owned by the Mob.
Yeah, he’s not the complete hitter that fans may have wanted but with Josh Bell coming in, the two of them give the team a much more vaunted power game to worry about. Zunino should be hitting ninth in the lineup, but even if he does, he stands to be able to hurt opposing teams far more often than Hedges could and he provides the bridge needed to get Bo Naylor ready.
That was an issue with Murphy, besides the ransom-like costs, the A’s wanted, that he would block Naylor’s advancement to the majors.
Now that’s not an issue and Zunino could earn himself a second contract with the Guardos as a bench/DH type of player in 2024 fi he plays well and hits well. Catchers rarely play 120 games anymore, so having Zunino carry over into 2024 as a backup and potential fill-in at DH and first base makes total sense.
But that’ll all depend on how he plays in 2023.