Mike Zunino has arrived. Sort of.
He's arrived in Seattle, or he's about to. His career hasn't arrived yet, but here he is regardless - a member of the Seattle Mariners, confirmed by Larry Stone. Zunino carries a .238/.303/.503 AAA line into Seattle, where he's hit a wall of sorts. Dominating each level up to this, his production has plateaued in Tacoma. He's still having major contact issues, can't hit lefties, and has this weird thing where he can't hit in the city of Tacoma.
Here's some Mike Zunino facts:
.643 OPS vs. LHP
.446 OPS at home
Drafted barely over a year ago
Played in the College World Series less than a year ago
Seattle Mariners starting catcher
Buster Posey only got a cup of coffee in September the year after he was drafted. He didn't become a full time guy until roughly two years after he was drafted. Zunino's up in one. Posey was fast-tracked, because he was an outstanding hitter who performed at every level of the minors. Zunino hasn't, and he's basically here a year before Posey. The future of Mike Zunino is now in the hands of an organization that has failed time and time again at developing highly regarded young hitters.
You think Jack Zduriencik isn't on the hot seat? This is proof that he is. If he wasn't concerned about this year's W/L record, Zunino wouldn't be here. He'd be in AAA where he belongs, battling through his issues, learning his way to become a productive hitter. Instead, he's rushed along to the majors despite not earning it, a result of a dysfunctional process that has people in charge scrambling to save their jobs instead of keeping the best interest of the franchise at heart.
Brandon Bantz is the likely casualty of this, who now has to be DFA'd in order to make room for Zunino on the 40 man roster. He got to the plate twice and may not see the big leagues again in his career.
Bantz and Kelly Shoppach didn't make for an appealing combination. Jesus Sucre is on the disabled list, and there may be those who say that Zunino is only up until Sucre is healthy. Why? You don't need Mike Zunino with Sucre out. That's why you called up Bantz, knowing full well what he could do. There's other motivations. Zunino doesn't need to be yanked around between levels while he is still working out his issues. This organization's goal should not be tossing player development to the side for the sake of winning an extra game or two over the season. This is a hail mary for Zduriencik, praying Zunino becomes his Yasiel Puig and sets the world on fire. If winning games right now wasn't the main consideration, Zunino wouldn't be here. This is a move about the men in charge and not what's best for Mike Zunino, and consequently the future of this franchise.
The issues that Zunino has in AAA aren't going to disappear with better competition. It could easily cause him to develop bad habits at the big league level instead of naturally learning how to be the dominant hitter he should become against lesser competition. When Zunino inevitably struggles, he should be demoted, but will he? With no quality options at catcher, Zunino may be the option to win the most games right now and for the rest of the season, even if he struggles. At this rate, it's only a matter of time before we see Brad Miller and anyone else who could make this team instantly better.
What is the difference between 70 and 75 wins? It looks like Jack Zduriencik (and Eric Wedge) think it's their jobs, and they have to do everything they can to show the franchise is improving. So Mike Zunino becomes the pawn in a game where the people in charge only worry about today and not tomorrow. Survive and advance at any cost for the M's brass - even at the expense of their team's future.