The Cleveland Guardians have made a move at the catcher position. No, it is not the move you are thinking of, the team has designated veteran Mike Zunino for assignment ahead of Friday's game in Arizona.
Cleveland took a gamble in signing Zunino this past offseason, hoping that the veteran backstop would be able to provide some thump to a lineup that was missing it. After just 42 games the Guardians have seen enough to determine that their gamble was not going to pay off.
Zunino struggled mightily at the plate, slashing just .177/.271/.306 in 140 plate appearances. Strikeouts have been a big problem for most of Zunino's career and that carried over into this season, striking out 61 times compared to just 22 hits and 15 walks.
The struggles at the plate may have been a bit more manageable if Zunino was able to show some resemblance to the catcher that hit 20 or more home runs four times. But after it became apparent that was going to be a season that did not result in good power numbers at the plate, the Guardians could no longer justify having him behind it.
From a defensive standpoint Zunino is near unplayable. It is obvious that a few of the pitchers do not throw certain pitchers due to the fact Zunino might not keep the ball in front of him, as his five passed balls are the most in baseball. Add that to having the sixth-most wild pitches (19) and sixth-most stolen bases allowed (40), the poor performance defensively could no longer be tolerated with the complete lack of offensive production. Previous catchers have shown poor numbers at the plate, but were elite defensively. Considering that Zunino is not elite as a defender, this became a very easy decision.
There was always a decent amount of risk involved in signing Zunino, with it not working out for the Guardians. With this gamble not working out Cleveland can now turn their attention to the younger brother of their most intense player. Bo Naylor will join the team Saturday, which should be the beginning of the a new era at the catcher position in Cleveland.