Catching up: Zunino upgrades Guardians, better bat

Tampa Bay Rays catcher Mike Zunino plays against the New York Yankees on May 29 in St. Petersburg, Florida.Associated Press

The Guardians don’t need Mike Zunino to be an All-Star, although they wouldn’t mind him being an All-Star again.

Cleveland needs him to hit and deepen their roster, and Zunho has proven he’s qualified.

The AL Central champions upgraded the offensive opening Thursday by signing Zunino to a one-year, $6 million deal. The 31-year-old hit a career-high 33 home runs for Tampa Bay in 2021, and the Guardians believe he can provide some extra power for a team that hit just 127 last season. .

Zunino is also a solid defender, a prerequisite for a team built around pitchers.

Cleveland went into the offseason looking to improve its receiving situation — mostly from an offensive standpoint. Austin Hedges and Luke Maile are both solid receivers, but don’t do much with the bat.

While Hedges has been an invaluable club leader and has excelled defensively as Cleveland’s primary starter, he’s hit just . 163 in 105 appearances. Mailer is hitting . 221 in 76 games.

Despite being the youngest team in the Majors, the Guardians won the AL Central by valuing hitting quality, contact and hitting the bases by any means necessary.

It’s a different approach in these wobbly times, and Zunino is eager to be a part of it.

Zunino’s signing comes after the Guardians locked in slugger Josh Bell, who hit 130 home runs in seven seasons and will bolster Cleveland’s midfield order.

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