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Rays sign Mike Zunino to one-year, $4.5 million contract

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Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that the Rays and catcher Mike Zunino are finalizing a new one-year, $4.5 million contract for the 2020 season. The deal includes an option for the 2021 season worth between $4.5-5.5 million. [Update: The Rays have announced the deal.]

Zunino, 28, was eligible for arbitration in his fourth and final year. He’s coming off of a disappointing 2019 season in which he hit .165/.232/.312 with nine home runs and 32 RBI across 289 plate appearances. He eventually split playing time behind the plate with Travis d'Arnaud, who the Rays were hoping to keep. He signed with the Braves yesterday.

Zunino’s best year came in 2017 when he posted an .840 OPS with 25 homers while playing above-average defense behind the plate for the Mariners. The Rays are hoping he can recapture some of that magic this coming season.

Oakland Athletics reverse course: will continue to pay minor leaguers

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Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Oakland Athletics owner John Fisher has reversed course and will continue to pay minor leaguers. Fisher tells Slusser, “I concluded I made a mistake.” He said he is also setting up an assistance fund for furloughed employees.

The A’s decided in late May to stop paying paying minor leaguers as of June 1, which was the earliest date on which any club could do so after an MLB-wide agreement to pay minor leaguers through May 31 expired. In the event, the A’s were the only team to stop paying the $400/week stipends to players before the end of June. Some teams, notable the Royals and Twins, promised to keep the payments up through August 31, which is when the minor league season would’ve ended. The Washington Nationals decided to lop off $100 of the stipends last week but, after a day’s worth of blowback from the media and fans, reversed course themselves.