Zaun not against trade away from Jays
Catcher seeks more playing time or possible deal to contender
TORONTO -- Gregg Zaun has heard his name mentioned among the many trade rumors that have been swirling of late. The more the Blue Jays veteran catcher has thought about it, the more he's started to believe that being dealt could prove to be beneficial.
Upset over his diminished role behind the plate with Toronto, Zaun told MLB.com on Tuesday that he would welcome a trade that could net some more playing time -- possibly with a contending club. The Jays have talked to numerous clubs about Zaun, but there has been little to no interest.
"Trades are a part of baseball," Zaun said. "Things haven't worked out the way I planned them to this year here in Toronto. Getting an opportunity to play on a regular basis for a pennant contender or going back to a place that I'm familiar with, it would probably be a good thing."
Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi was quick to point out that he's discussed potentially trading Zaun with multiple teams, but there have been no takers. Upon hearing the catcher's comments, Ricciardi reiterated that the Blue Jays will continue to look for a possible match before Thursday's non-waiver Trade Deadline.
"We're aware that Zaunie is unhappy," Ricciardi told MLB.com. "We wish he wouldn't go through the media with it. We wish he would come to us, especially knowing we have a good relationship. Unfortunately, right now, there are no takers for him. If there are, we'll definitely oblige him.
"I think we've been a little bit more proactive than maybe Zaunie thinks. "Part of making a trade is someone has to want you. Right now, there's no one that has expressed an interest in him. That's where we're at."
Following Toronto's 3-0 loss against the Rays on Tuesday night, Zaun took exception to some of Ricciardi's reaction. The catcher noted that he wasn't demanding a trade in any respect and added that he's never complained publicly about his playing time.
"It's somewhat unfair for me to be accused of using the media and not talking internally," Zaun said after the game. "I haven't been quoted -- not at any time -- I haven't complained."
Zaun indicated that he had met with Ricciardi "quite a ways back" to discuss his role, relaying to Toronto's general manager that he wanted to be more of an integral part of the club. Zaun noted that Ricciardi said that he'd see if any teams would be interested in the catcher.
"If nobody wants me, then I'll be a Blue Jay until the end of the season," Zaun said. "I'll keep doing what I've always done, which is play as hard as I can, giving 100 percent every single day and doing everything I can to help this team.
"According to our GM, nobody wants me. So, chances are, Friday morning, I'm still going to be a Blue Jay, and I'm fine with that. I love it here."
Ricciardi indicated that Toronto has held talks with Kansas City and Florida about Zaun, who played for the Marlins from 1996-98. The 37-year-old Zaun won a World Series title with Florida as a backup catcher in 1997, and he said his dream was to win a title as a starter for Toronto.
"My storybook ending to my time in Toronto was winning a World Series championship as the starting catcher," Zaun said. "That's what I signed back here to do. Obviously, the situation has changed."
Lately, Jays catcher Rod Barajas has garnered more playing time than Zaun, who has grown increasingly frustrated over the situation. Prior to the 2007 season, Zaun signed a two-year, $7.25 million contract to serve as Toronto's regular catcher. How he lost that role has been perplexing for Zaun.
"That's been the most puzzling thing," said Zaun, who has started just three times in the past 13 games. "That has been one of the more puzzling questions that really has not been answered. It is what it is. It's one of those things that's been difficult to understand."
In 68 games for the Jays this season, the 32-year-old Barajas, whose contract includes a $2.5 million club option for 2009, has hit .251 with eight homers and 31 RBIs. Zaun, who is a free agent after this season, has batted .243 with five homers and 21 RBIs in 61 games.
Zaun missed 16 games between May and June with a right elbow injury, and Barajas capitalized on the situation by performing well in the starter's role. Zaun believes his decreased playing time has its roots long before he was on the disabled list, or before the arrival of manager Cito Gaston on June 20, though.
"Obviously, I got hurt and Rod played extremely well," Zaun said. "But, it's always been my experience that veterans like me who are signed to do a job don't necessarily lose their starting job because of an injury. And, I don't think that actually was the case here. It started much earlier in the season."
Ricciardi declined to discuss Zaun's recent playing time.
"I don't really want to comment on that," Ricciardi said. "Cito is the manager and he makes out the lineup. If Zaunie has a problem, he should go talk to the manager. We're going to try really hard to accommodate him. We'll just see if someone out there wants him."
Following Tuesday's game, Gaston said that Barajas has earned the right to play more often than Zaun.
"Zaunie just wants to play, and he's a free agent after this year," Gaston said. "He wants to play, and put up some numbers and you know, he hasn't been able to play here like he wanted to. He got hurt and Barajas has come up and played better than he has. To me, you put the best player out there."
Given his current situation, Zaun said he would relish the chance to be a backup for a contender, or to provide a veteran presence as a starter for a team like the Marlins. Zaun said he believes the work he's done over the last five years with Toronto's pitching staff, which has developed into one of the better groups in baseball, could carry over to another team.
"I think one of the things that makes me most attractive," Zaun said, "is what I do with a pitching staff. I think the numbers speak for themselves since I've been here. Outside of [ace Roy Halladay], who was who he is when I got here, [pitching coach Brad Arnsberg] and [bullpen coach] Bruce Walton and I have a lot to do with the success and the maturation of the guys we've brought up through the system.
"That's probably the thing that I'm the most proud of in my time as a Blue Jay. I can't say enough about how much I've enjoyed my time here and if it comes to an end because of a trade this year, so be it. I'm open to the opportunity to play for a championship.
"That's really all that I have left to dream about and hope about."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.