Rays deal Smith for a light-hitting catcher

by Gary Shelton on November 9, 2018 · 2 comments

in general

Can Smith continue to be an impact player?/CARMEN MANDATO

Friday, 2 a.m.

Without a doubt, Mallex Smith had a keeper of a season in 2018.

The Tampa Bay Rays, however, seemed to wonder if he would get any better in the future?

The Rays sold high on Smith Thursday, sending him to Seattle in a trade, primarily, for catcher Mike Zunino. The Rays also got outfielder Guillermo Hereda and minor-league pitcher Michael Plassmeyer. The Rays also gave up minor-leaguer Jake Fraley.

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So why move Smith, a 25-year-old outfielder who hit .296 for the Rays in 2018 and stole 40 bases? If you remember, it was moving Smith to the leadoff spot that ignited the team's late-season rush.

It is sure to be a less-than-popular trade. Smith brought energy into the lineup, and speed.

Still, Smith is still a defensive player in progress, and he is prone to base-running errors (he was caught stealing 12 times). There is also a question of where to play him in an outfield that features Tommy Pham, Kevin Kiermaier and Austin Meadows. Meadows, in particular, seemed poised to take some at-bats away from Smith.

Still, .296 is .296, and the Rays had a lot of players who hit less.

But the Rays seem to value Zunino, who was named the best defensive catcher in the game in 2018. Tampa Bay has long considered catcher a run-prevention position. Zuniga also hit 20 home runs last year, and is fourth among catchers with 45 over the last two seasons. Still, he hit only .201 last year, and just .207 lifetime.

Zunino, 27, is expected to pair with Michael Peres at catcher for the Rays.

Projected Starting Lineup

1B -- Jake Bauers
2B -- Daniel Robertson
SS -- Willy Adames
3B -- Matt Duffy
LF -- Tommy Pham
CF -- Kevin Kiermaier
RF -- Austin Meadows
DH -- C.J. Cron / Ji-Man Choi
C -- Mike Zunino
P -- Blake Snell

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