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With this Mariners season on-the-verge of slipping away, the team made the right call today by promoting catcher Mike Zunino from Class AAA. I’m off today, so I’ll let colleague Larry Stone, who first broke this, handle the majority of what remains to be said.
But really, the team had no choice.
Kelly Shoppach can’t catch every day. His offensive numbers have plummeted and he’s been having the baseball slip out of his hand more than once the past couple of days — a sign that fatigue is setting in for him. And who can blame him it if is? He’s not an everyday catcher and wasn’t brought here to be one.
The Mariners need an everyday catcher up here and that isn’t Brandon Bantz. It’s Zunino, a guy who is the team’s top position player prospect and already in Class AAA.
Now, it’s true that Zunino probably isn’t as fully developed as the team would like him to be. But that’s too bad. There is a responsibility the Mariners owe the paying customers to put as close to a major league product on the field as is possible on any given night.
If they had somebody else who fits that description ready to handle daily catching duties in the big leagues, then fine. But they don’t. Zunino is it. So, ready or not, he gets to make his MLB debut early. Just like Jason Bay has to be an everyday outfielder right now. Desperate times call for increasingly desperate measures and everybody has to do their part.
The idea that catching up here a few games, or even a week or two, would somehow irreparably harm Zunino is somewhat laughable. These guys may be prospects, but their psyches aren’t totally made of glass. Or shouldn’t be. If Zunino falls flat, send him back down in a couple of weeks once Jesus Sucre is healthy.
That way, you’ll quickly fix that problem and can keep him in AAA at least until any Super 2 arbitration questions are solved.
Yeah, you burn a minor league option on Zunino, but if he’s as good as everybody says he is, you won’t need all the options on him.
And if he isn’t as good as touted?
Well then, that’s one more thing for this front office to worry about, but fortunately, they will have either earned their keep by the time those options are all used up or they will have long since ceased being employed by the Mariners.
That’s a minor concern right now.
The big concern is putting a major league team on the field and you don’t do that by playing a backup catcher six days per week.
Zunino’s number was up next and he’s getting an early shot. This front office has been slow to make other needed moves this season — both in terms of call-ups and the DL — but this time, they got it right.
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