MLB ROUNDER: M’s reach deal to send Zunino to Rays

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Mike Zunino may not have to go far from his home in Gainesville, Fla., when the 2019 season begins.

Multiple Major League Baseball sources said the Mariners are finalizing a deal with their favorite trade partner, the Tampa Bay Rays. Seattle would send Zunino and outfielder Guillermo Heredia to Tampa in exchange for outfielder Mallex Smith.

The two teams have been engaged in trade talks since last week. And like with all trades, until the medical reports and details are cleared, the trade won’t be finalized. But the basic framework of the deal is in place.

This is the 10th trade between the Mariners and Rays since general manager Jerry Dipoto began his tenure in Seattle.

Zunino, who picked up the award as the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Award for catchers on Wednesday afternoon, has been a brilliant defensive catcher for the Mariners at the big-league level over five and a half season, playing in 575 games and logging more than 4,829 innings behind the plate. His bat, however, didn’t display that sort of consistency. He struggled with swings and misses, striking out in 34 percent of his 2,087 plate appearances. But there were periods, particularly the 2017 season where he hit .250 with 25 doubles, 25 homers and 64 RBIs in 124 games that gave the Mariners hope that he could be an All-Star level catcher and foundational piece for the organization.

Taken with third overall pick of the 2012 draft out of the University of Florida, Zunino was rushed to the big leagues to his own detriment by the previous management regime, making his big-league debut midway through the 2013 season after less than 100 minor-league games. He predictably struggled to adjust to the advanced pitching of the big leagues.

Smith was actually a Mariner for a total of 77 minutes in January of 2017. Seattle acquired him and reliever Shae Simmons from the Braves for pitchers Luiz Gohara and Thomas Burrows. Just over an hour later, Dipoto sent him and two minor leaguers to the Rays in exchange for left Drew Smyly.

Smith had a breakout season for the Rays, posting a .296/.367/.406 slash line with 27 doubles, 10 triples, two homers, 40 RBIs and 40 stolen bases in 141 games with the Rays. He can play all three outfield positions. And if the Mariners decide to move Dee Gordon to the infield, Smith would be their every day centerfielder. Smith will make the league minimum in 2019 and then be arbitration eligible for three years.

ChiSox extend manager Rick Renteria’s contract

CARLSBAD, Calif. — The rebuilding Chicago White Sox have extended manager Rick Renteria’s contract.

General manager Rick Hahn declined to give specifics Wednesday other than the extension goes past 2019, when Renteria’s original three-year deal was set to end.

Renteria is 129-195 in two seasons with the White Sox, including 62-100 this year. Prior to being hired, he managed the Chicago Cubs to a 73-89 record in 2014.

Agent calls rebuilding teams ‘competitive cancer’

CARLSBAD, Calif. — The agent for free agent Bryce Harper and many of baseball’s top players claims rebuilding teams have become a “competitive cancer” that caused this season’s 4 percent attendance drop.

As the sport’s officials start to consider possible rules changes to spark offense and speed pace, Scott Boras acidly critiqued several clubs that were among the 17 to draw fewer fans this year than last.

Boras pointed out Louisiana State’s baseball team had a higher average attendance for its 37 home games than the Miami Marlins did for their 81 — 10,786 to 10,014.

“The fans of Florida have certainly brought the MIA to Miami,” he said Wednesday in a courtyard outside the general managers’ meetings. He claimed when “the divisional clubs come to Minnesota, it’s gotten so bad that only one of the Twins shows up.”

And he criticized the Toronto Blue Jays, who had the biggest decrease in the major leagues this year, falling by 878,000 fans to 2.33 million.

“They’ve lost near a third of their fan base due to the blue flu of not bringing attractive players the fans find interesting to their market,” he said.

Sabathia signs with Yankees for one final year

CARLSBAD, Calif. — CC Sabathia says 2019 will be his final season in the major leagues.

“This will be it,” the 38-year-old left-hander said in a video posted on Twitter on Wednesday after the New York Yankees finalized his $8 million, one-year contract.

Sabathia and New York had reached the agreement Tuesday, subject to a successful physical.

A six-time All-Star and the 2007 AL Cy Young Award winner, Sabathia went 9-7 with a 3.65 ERA in 29 starts this year. He had surgery on his right knee after the 2010 season, in July 2014, after the 2016 season and again last month. Sabathia pitches with a brace on the knee and needs periodic injections there during the season.

He is 246-153 in 18 major league seasons with a 3.70 ERA and 2,986 strikeouts, including 129-80 in a decade with the Yankees. His new deal boosts his pay from New York to $229 million.

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