Zunino signed a $6MM free agent contract over the winter. A little over half that salary remains to be paid out, making it a lock he goes unclaimed on release waivers. Once that process plays out, he’ll be a free agent. At that point, other teams could add him for the prorated portion of the $720K league minimum while leaving the Guardians on the hook for the rest of the money.
Cleveland bought low on the veteran backstop after his 2022 season was ruined by thoracic outlet syndrome. It didn’t pan out, as the 32-year-old struggled on both sides of the ball. He hit .177/.271/.306 with only three home runs in 140 trips to the plate. Zunino annually runs one of the sport’s highest strikeout rates, but this season’s 43.6% clip would be a career-high in a 162-game schedule.
Zunino has generally been a solid defensive catcher in his career. He had well below-average marks with the glove in Cleveland, however. He allowed a league-high five passed balls while throwing out 16.7% of attempted basestealers (a few points below the 20.6% league average). Defensive Runs Saved pegged Zunino as nine runs below average, tying for second-worst at the position.
Without much production on either side of the ball, Cleveland went in a different direction. The Guardians called up top prospect Bo Naylor on the heels of a .253/.393/.498 showing through 270 plate appearances with Triple-A Columbus. He’s the new starting backstop, with Cam Gallagher and David Fry on hand as reserve options.