Another catcher who could have filled a role for the catching-needy Phillies has gone off the board.
The Tampa Bay Times is reporting that the Rays are bringing back Mike Zunino on a one-year deal. The Rays back in October declined a $4.5 million option on Zunino's contract and that made him a free agent. According to reports, the two sides were able to hammer out a deal at $3 million.
The Phillies have a need at catcher with J.T. Realmuto on the free-agent market. The Phils would like to re-sign Realmuto but have secondary targets should he sign elsewhere. Zunino, along with James McCann, was likely talked about as a secondary target. McCann signed with the Mets last week.
Though Zunino has power in his bat, he does not bring much to the table offensively. His lifetime batting average in 2,226 career at-bats is just .200. The Rays made it to the World Series in 2020 and Zunino hit just .170 (9 for 53) with 27 strikeouts in the postseason. However, four of his nine hits were homers. The Rays rode Zunino throughout the playoffs because he's a strong defender and leads a pitching staff well.
Currently, the Phillies have just one major-league ready catcher, Andrew Knapp, on their roster. If the Phillies are able to re-sign Realmuto, Knapp would remain as the backup. He could see more playing time if the Phillies have to mine what's left of the free-agent market for their second catcher. Curt Casali, who became a free agent after he was not tendered a contract by Cincinnati, would make some sense for the Phillies. He has a history with Caleb Cotham, the Phillies' new pitching coach. Kurt Suzuki and Yadier Molina are also on the free-agent market. It's also possible that the Phils could trade for a catcher, though the team is not deep in trade resources.
In addition to catcher, the Phillies are looking for relief help and a shortstop.