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Joe Saunders Rumors
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.
Here's the latest from the Orioles' camp…
- The Orioles' inactivity for much of the offseason made executive VP of baseball operations Dan Duquette a target of criticism, but Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun notes that Duquette ended up with the last laugh by signing Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz at relative bargain prices. While Duquette praised his operations staff for doing their homework to prepare for player acquisitions, he admitted that he wasn't planning on qualifying-offer free agents like Jimenez and Cruz lasting this long. "This is the first full year of the [qualifying offer] implementation, and I'm not sure people understood how the market was going to play out. I can't tell you we envisioned that the market would get to this point," Duquette said.
- Extension talks between the Orioles and J.J. Hardy are still in the very preliminary stages, though one thing Hardy would like to get settled quickly is his future position. "Obviously, that'll be a question that will be answered before all the contract stuff gets figured out and I'd like to know,'' Hardy told Peter Schmuck. "If I'm going to be doing that in a year or two, it would have an impact of some sort." Though Hardy has played every game of his Major League career as a shortstop and Manny Machado was a defensive ace at third last season, it has been presumed that the O's would eventually like to move Machado back to his natural position at short.
- Some more moves could yet be on the way for Baltimore, MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli opines. The team is still looking for pitching and Joe Saunders makes sense, though Ghiroli notes that "nothing is imminent" between the two sides. The O's were talking to Saunders earlier this month and Ghiroli suspects that Saunders would insist on a Major League contract. Saunders had a short stint with the Orioles in 2012, pitching well in seven starts after being acquired in a late-August trade.
Byron Buxton holds the top position in Baseball America's 2014 ranking of the top 100 prospects in the sport. It's no surprise that Buxton was ranked #1 given that the Twins outfielder was similarly ranked in BA's midseason top 100 last summer. Red Sox infielder Xander Bogaerts, Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras, Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (who qualifies for the list despite his long career in Japan) and Cubs shortstop Javier Baez round out the top five.
Here's some more from around baseball….
- Baseball America's John Manuel picks out some of the best and worst rankings from the past 24 years of BA's Top 100 Prospects lists.
- The Braves signed long-term extensions with several core players but only extended Jason Heyward through his two remaining arbitration years. While some believe that this means Heyward's time in Atlanta is limited, MLB.com's Tracy Ringolsby writes that "the expectation is that after next season, the Heyward deal can be expanded so that he, too, will be locked up at least through the first year in the new ballpark." Such a deal would require extending Heyward through at least his first two free agent years, which could get very expensive for the Braves if Heyward finally breaks out into stardom, as many have predicted for the young outfielder.
- Padres chairman Ron Fowler told reporters (including Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune) that the club is prepared to raise payroll even further beyond the current $87MM+ projection for 2014.
- In regards to negotiations with Chase Headley on a multiyear deal, Fowler said, “There has been dialogue and we will continue to have dialogue at the appropriate time through the appropriate sources.” Headley recently hinted that not much progress was being made and that talks could be tabled until after the season.
- According to a talent evaluator who has seen Joe Saunders throw, the veteran southpaw could be the "steal of February," the evaluator tells FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal (Twitter link). Saunders posted a rough 5.26 ERA over 183 innings for the Mariners last season. "No one saying he’s a star, but he’s a major-league pitcher," Rosenthal writes.
- The Nationals' acquisition of Doug Fister from the Tigers is the best transaction of the 2014 offseason, as judged by Fangraphs' Dave Cameron. The Fister trade headlines Cameron's list of the winter's top 10 moves.
- Though Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts denied that his club's profits were going anywhere but back into the team, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times wonders why the Cubs' revenues haven't been reflected in the Major League payroll.
- NC State left-hander Carlos Rodon stands alone in his own tier atop ESPN's Keith Law's four-tier breakdown of the 2014 draft's top prospects (Insider subscription required).
Orioles Executive Vice-President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette has said on several occasions that the O's are on the hunt for a veteran starter this offseason, and both Saunders and Capuano would fit that bill. However, neither distinguished themselves in 2013, as Saunders posted a 5.26 ERA in 183 innings for the Mariners, and Capuano managed just 105 2/3 frames for the Dodgers after struggling with various injuries. He eventually received a $1MM buyout. With both Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez still on the market, it's safe to say a deal for Saunders or Capuano wouldn't be the impact move many O's fans have waited for this offseason.
The Orioles were known to be in pursuit of A.J. Burnett, who is a Maryland resident. However, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com reported yesterday that the chances of a deal "don't look good," as it's believed Burnett would prefer to remain in the National League.