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Joe Saunders Rumors
Saunders joins his third organization of the season after being released by the Royals and Rangers within the last month. The southpaw posted a 6.13 ERA in 39 2/3 innings with Texas earlier this year and also struggled in four starts with Kansas City’s Triple-A affiliate.
This is Saunders’ second stint in Baltimore, as he was first acquired by the O’s in late August 2012. He was a key part of the Orioles’ playoff push that year, posting a 3.63 ERA over seven regular season starts and then a 1.59 ERA over two postseason starts, earning the win in the Orioles’ wild card game victory over the Rangers. Baltimore had some interest in Saunders during the offseason and, according to Connolly, are looking at Saunders as a possible long relief option out of the bullpen.
Here are the day’s minor moves:
- Lefty Joe Saunders has been released, the Royals announced on Twitter. Saunders opted out of his minor league deal, reports Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com (Twitter link). The 33-year-old lefty will presumably now look for his fourth organization of the year.
- The Cardinals have released catcher George Kottaras after designating him for assignment to create room for the addition of A.J. Pierzynski, reports Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com (via Twitter). Kottaras, 31, saw just six plate appearances for the Cardinals but owns a .269/.375/.615 slash on the year through just 33 plate appearances.
- Twins reliever Matt Guerrier has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A, but will elect free agency rather than accepting the assignment, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com. Guerrier could hold appeal to contenders as a depth piece, particularly on a minor league deal. The veteran righty has produced a solid 3.86 ERA in 28 innings, but has struck out just 3.9 batters per nine.
The Royals announced that they have signed left-hander Joe Saunders to a minor league deal and assigned him to Triple-A Omaha.
The 33-year-old Saunders made eight starts for the Rangers this season, pitching to a 6.13 ERA with 22 strikeouts against 20 walks in 39 2/3 innings of work. He was a consistent, if unspectacular, innings-eater from 2007-12 with the Angels, Diamondbacks and Orioles, but Saunders has struggled greatly in his past two Major League stints. From 2013-14, he owns a 5.42 ERA in 222 2/3 innings between the Mariners and Angels.
The Rangers have put Joe Saunders on release waivers with the intent of giving the left-hander his unconditional release, the team announced. Saunders was designated for assignment on Tuesday. In corresponding moves, righty Ben Rowen was optioned to Triple-A and Neftali Feliz was promoted from Triple-A as the former Rangers closer returns to the majors after missing much of the last two seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Saunders signed a Major League deal with Texas in March that ended up netting him a guaranteed $1.5MM since he made the Rangers’ 25-man roster. The veteran southpaw ended up making eight starts for the Rangers and struggled to the tune of a 6.13 ERA and nearly as many walks (20) as strikeouts (22) over 39 2/3 innings of work.
Saunders, 33, owns a 6.13 ERA through 39 2/3 innings after a tough outing last night against the Orioles — the club with whom he last found sustained success. The veteran has struck out just 5.0 batters per nine while maintaining a troubling career-worst 4.54 BB/9. Those peripherals do not leave much room for putting a positive spin on his struggles; Saunders owns a 6.20 FIP, 5.16 xFIP, and 5.21 SIERA.
Teams won’t be able to sign Stephen Drew or Kendrys Morales before the draft without forfeiting a draft pick, but that doesn’t mean teams shouldn’t consider signing them before then, FOX Sports’ Rob Neyer writes. The problem isn’t just the draft pick, but rather the draft pick plus the cost of the signing, so the right teams should be willing to sign Drew or Morales if the price is low enough. Teams negotiating with those players now would have the advantage of a limited market, since the draft pick will scare other teams away. Finding the right team for Morales is difficult at this point, but Drew would make a good deal of sense for the Yankees, Neyer argues. The Yankees would only lose the No. 56 pick in the draft as a result of signing Drew. Here are more notes from the American League.
- Joe Saunders wants to make it back to the Rangers as a starter, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes. Saunders has been out for a month with a stress fracture in his ankle, and the Rangers wanted to activate him in order to have him pitch as a long reliever. Saunders still believes he is a starter, however, and has asked the team to allow him to make two additional rehab starts in the minors. “Once you go to the bullpen, it’s hard to get back to starting,” says Saunders. “They paid me to start, and I think I can most help this club by starting.”
- Former Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who was honored at Comerica Park Saturday morning, has no regrets about stepping aside, George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press reports. “It was a great run,” says Leyland. “The missing piece was the World Series trophy, so we’ll be forever held against us, but it was such a wonderful run for everybody.” Leyland now serves as a special assistant to GM Dave Dombrowski. He’s done some scouting work and says he has watched almost every game the Tigers have played this year.
FRIDAY: Saunders can earn up to $3.65MM if he makes the club and hits all of the incentives in his contract, according to the Associated Press. Just $250K of Saunders' $500K base salary is guaranteed.
If Saunders makes the roster, his salary will jump to $1.5MM, as previously reported by Heyman. He also receives a $500K bonus for 90 days on the active roster. Saunders will receive an additional $150K for reaching each of 130, 140, 150, 160, 170 and 180 innings. He'll earn $250K for reaching each of 190, 200 and 210 innings. He can also earn between $25K and $100K for various awards bonuses.
WEDNESDAY, 10:00am: Saunders is guaranteed just $500K but will earn $1.5MM, plus incentives, if he makes the Major League roster, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (on Twitter).
9:34am: The Rangers announced today that they have signed left-hander Joe Saunders to a one-year, Major League contract. Financial terms remain in unknown, though reports have indicated that it is a non-guaranteed deal, suggesting that it could be in the mold of Tommy Hanson's one-year, split Major League contract with Texas that pays him a separate salary in the minors should he not make the big league club.
Saunders, 32, promises to add depth to the back of a Texas rotation mix that has increasingly looked in need of it. Derek Holland is going to miss the entire first half, Matt Harrison is still working back from surgery (and had a more recent injury scare), and other options come with a variety of uncertainties.
Working for the Mariners last year, Saunders struggled to a 5.26 ERA in 183 innings. That was the worst full-season mark of his career, however, as the southpaw had thrown at least 174 2/3 innings and posted between a 3.41 and 4.60 ERA over his previous five seasons.
Advanced metrics thought his 2013 season was better than the resuls, as he posted a 4.72 FIP, 4.23 xFIP, and 4.42 SIERA. However, those numbers remain underwhelming, and a look at advanced stats also tends to place a negative spin on some of Saunders' more productive previous years. Indeed, he has never finished a year below the 4.00 line by any of those measures.
The signing was first reported by Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com first tweeted that it was a MLB deal, with Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweeting that it was of the non-guaranteed variety.
Steve Adams contributed to this post.
MONDAY: Twins officials denied having interest in Saunders to the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo (Twitter link).
SATURDAY: The Twins have added Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes to a rotation that struggled in 2013, but they might not be done making moves, 1500ESPN.com's Darren Wolfson writes. The team is interested in free-agent starter Joe Saunders if they can get him cheaply enough.
Saunders struggled in Seattle last season, posting a 5.26 ERA with 5.3 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 183 innings. As Wolfson points out, however, other indicators, such as his ground-ball rate, suggested Saunders was at least somewhat better than that ERA. He has also generally been very durable throughout his career, a quality that could be useful to the Twins, who had nine pitchers make at least eight starts last season. After a rough 2013 in which he made $6.5MM, Saunders will likely make less next year. Wolfson reports that the Twins made Saunders a one-year, $8MM offer last January, but he declined in favor of signing with the Mariners.
Two years after their trade with the Mariners, the Yankees may finally emerge as the winners in their trade for Michael Pineda, David Waldstein of the New York Times writes. Jesus Montero's stock has fallen sharply in Seattle thanks to his poor hitting and conditioning, and now Pineda, who missed the entire 2012 season with shoulder trouble, has a chance to win a job in the Yankees' rotation. Pineda, who pitched sparingly in the minors last year, says he's finally healthy. "I want to be on the Yankees right away," he says. "I don’t want to go to Triple-A. But I don’t have control over the situation." Here are more notes from around baseball.
- Jon Lester is heading into his last year before free agency, and it seems likely that he and the Red Sox will agree to terms on an extension before that happens. In a podcast, Tim Britton and Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal try to determine what a Lester extension might look like, and they arrive somewhere in the neighborhood of five years and $110MM guaranteed, perhaps with an option of some kind. The Red Sox likely will not want to guarantee more than five years for Lester, they suggest, and his recent workload (he threw 248 innings last year, including the postseason) could be a factor. Lester is already locked into a $13MM salary for 2014, so a five-year, $110MM extension would effectively add four years and $97MM.
- It's unclear how many innings the Rangers will get from their starting pitchers, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News writes. Derek Holland is injured, Yu Darvish and Matt Harrison have back issues, Alexi Ogando hasn't proven he's durable, and Martin Perez is only 22. The Rangers could try to compensate by getting more innings out of their relievers. They could also try to make up for Holland's absence by signing Joe Saunders, who recently worked out for them. Tommy Hanson, Colby Lewis, Robbie Ross, Tanner Scheppers and Michael Kirkman could also be candidates to start.
- Vanderbilt pitcher Tyler Beede now looks like a clear top-five draft pick, ESPN's Keith Law writes (Insider-only). Law notes that on Friday night, Beede demonstrated good stuff and solid command, with 92-95 MPH velocity and a strong changeup. Law writes that teams should consider taking Beede beginning with the No. 3 overall pick, with only NC State's Carlos Rodon and high school arm Tyler Kolek obviously representing better picks at this point.
- A.J. Burnett, who made his 2014 spring debut on Sunday, helps clarify the Phillies' rotation, Matt Gelb of the Inquirer writes. As Ryan Lawrence of the Daily News noted earlier today, the back of the Phillies' rotation is uncertain — Cole Hamels, Jonathan Pettibone and Ethan Martin are all dealing with injuries, and it's not clear what they have in Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez. Burnett gives the Phillies a reliable option to add to Cliff Lee and Kyle Kendrick.
Earlier today, we learned the Rangers were one of seven teams who watched Johan Santana throw during a workout in Fort Myers, Florida. Though Santana wouldn't be available until around the middle of the season as he recovers from shoulder surgery, he could serve as depth for a Texas rotation that is suddenly facing some injury problems. Here's some more on the Rangers' pitching explorations…
- Veteran left-hander Joe Saunders worked out with the Rangers today, USA Today's Scott Boeck tweets. The Orioles, who were talking to Saunders earlier this month, are also still interested in the southpaw.
- With Derek Holland and Matt Harrison battling injuries, MLB.com's Richard Justice suggests that the Rangers are a good fit for free agent Ervin Santana. There have been conflicting reports around whether or not Texas is interested in Santana, and the bigger obstacle could be Santana's desire for a four-year contract. Justice suggests that the Rangers could offer Santana one or two guaranteed years plus an option, as Santana could then get back onto the free agent market with more momentum on the open market if he pitches well in Arlington.
- The Rangers agreed to terms with 12 pre-arbitration players on one-year contracts, the team announced. ESPN Dallas' Richard Durrett has the salaries, and as expected, all 12 men made close to the $500K league minimum. The highest-paid of the dozen was left-hander Robbie Ross, who will earn a little under $513K next season. With Mike Trout's record $1MM pre-arbitration deal making news, MLBTR's Zach Links today looked at how teams have different ways of determing pre-arb salaries.