Zunino named top defensive catcher

Seattle Mariners catcher Mike Zunino earns Wilson Defensive Player of the Year award for catchers

Mike Zunino wasn’t a finalist for the Rawling’s Gold Glove awards, but different baseball glove manufacturer honored his work behind the plate.

On Wednesday, the Mariners’ catcher was one of nine players to earn Wilson Defensive Player of the Year award at their respective position.

The awards honor the top defensive performer at each position on the field and is determined by a combination of traditional defensive stats, advanced metrics and data from Inside Edge scouting.

Zunino, 27, led all catchers with 12 defensive runs saved in 2018, according to Fangraphs. The 6-foot-2, 233-pound backstop also ranked third in the American League and fifth in the Major Leagues with a .998 fielding percentage.

Saints ink Bryant

Dez Bryant has found a new team, agreeing to join the already prolific offense of the surging New Orleans Saints.

The former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver, who has been looking for an NFL home since becoming a free agent in April, will now have a chance to catch passes from one of the most prolific quarterbacks in NFL history in New Orleans’ Drew Brees.

The 30-year-old Bryant and the Saints agreed to contract terms on Wednesday, and it remains unclear to what extent Bryant will play when New Orleans visits Cincinnati on Sunday.

Bryant spent his first eight years in the NFL with Dallas and last season caught 69 passes for 838 yards and six touchdowns, including a 50-yard scoring play, for the Cowboys.

However, his professional reputation has been marred at times by public confrontations with coaches and teammates during games and practices.

Seeking salary cap relief, the Cowboys released Bryant after last season with two years remaining on the receiver’s five-year, $70 million contract.

Irvin joins the Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons made a move to bolster their lackluster pass rush by agreeing to a one-year deal with defensive end Bruce Irvin on Wednesday, reuniting the veteran with coach Dan Quinn.

Irvin, cut by the Oakland Raiders on Saturday, became a free agent after clearing waivers on Tuesday with $3.8 million remaining on his contract. The Falcons play at Cleveland on Sunday.

Irvin, 31, is an Atlanta native. He celebrated his return home by posting on his Twitter account “Man it’s time! You can’t put a price on the chance for me to play for my people and city! It’s bigger than money!”

Irvin was expected to arrive in Atlanta on Wednesday night and join practice on Thursday. Quinn said Irvin will play against Cleveland.

— Associated Press

The Falcons rank 27th in the league with 17 sacks. Takk McKinley has a team-leading 5½ sacks, but Vic Beasley has only one. Beasley led the league with 15½ sacks in 2016.

Irvin played with Seattle when Quinn was the team’s defensive coordinator.

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