CLEVELAND (AP)The Cleveland Guardians have reached agreement with veteran free agent catcher Mike Zunino on a $6 million, one-year contract, a person familiar with the deal told the Associated Press on Tuesday.
Zunino will sign once he completes medical tests, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal hasn’t been finalized.
The AL Central champions headed into the offseason looking to upgrade at catcher, and were involved in some trade talks for Oakland’s Sean Murphy, who wound up being dealt to Atlanta on Monday in a three-team deal.
With Murphy no longer in play, the Guardians switched to Zunino, a 10-year veteran and All-Star in 2021 who spent the past four seasons with Tampa Bay.
The 31-year-old Zunino hit 33 homers and drove in 62 runs in 109 games for the Rays in `21. However, he played in just 36 games last season before being diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome and undergoing surgery.
He’ll likely begin the season as Cleveland’s starter while 22-year-old prospect Bo Naylor gains more experience.
The younger brother of Guardians first baseman Josh Naylor, Bo Naylor is viewed as the team’s long-term starter. He split last season between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus before being called up.
Naylor played five games for Cleveland and was on the team’s postseason roster.
Last season, Austin Hedges and Luke Maile caught for the Guardians. While both were solid defensively, their lack of offensive production created a void at the bottom of manager Terry Francona’s lineup.
Zunino is just a .200 career hitter, but the Guardians are intrigued by his power. He’s hit at least 20 homers four times. He spent his first six major league seasons with Seattle.
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