Gregg Zaun missed most of this season following shoulder surgery, but the 40-year-old catcher plans to play in 2011 and recently told Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio that he’d prefer it be for the Rays.
Zaun played 34 games for the Rays in 2009 after being acquired from the Orioles in midseason trade, but it’s tough to see a fit for him in Tampa at this point with John Jaso entrenched as the primary catcher and Kelly Shoppach under contract as his backup/platoon-mate. And the Rays still have to figure out what to do with Dioner Navarro too.
Milwaukee declined its $2.25 million option on Zaun last week, choosing a $250,000 buyout instead. Zaun has always flown under the radar somewhat as a switch-hitting catcher with strong on-base skills and prior to the shoulder problems he was productive for the Brewers, hitting .265 with a .350 OBP.
Assuming he’s reasonably healthy Zaun would be a solid fit as a veteran backup somewhere, but Tampa Bay may not be the place.
The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports that the Indians and Padres are still discussing a potential trade for a starting pitcher, namely Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer. Rosenthal adds that a deal isn’t close and is unlikely to occur before Opening Day. The Padres are balking at the Indians’ asking prices for the two starters.
The Padres could certainly use an ace at the top of the rotation. With the addition of Manny Machado, the lineup is looking decent, but beyond Joey Lucchesi, the starting pitching doesn’t inspire confidence.
Kluber, who turns 33 years old next month, has club options for the next two seasons at $13.5 million and $14 million with $1 million buyouts each. Last year, the right-hander finished third in AL Cy Young balloting, finishing 20-7 with a 2.89 ERA and a 222/34 K/BB ratio in 215 innings.
Bauer, 28, is earning $13 million this season and will enter his fourth and final year of arbitration heading into 2020. Last year, Bauer went 12-6 with a 2.21 ERA and a 221/57 K/BB ratio across 175 1/3 innings.
The Indians are the prohibitive favorites in the AL Central once again, but that has as much to do with the mediocrity of the rest of the division as the Indians’ commitment to competing. If the Indians were to trade either or both starters, that would be good news for the Twins, who are projected to be 15 games worse than the Indians but still finish in second place, according to PECOTA from Baseball Prospectus.