Joe Saunders Rumors

Orioles Looking For Starters, Bats

1:55pm: The Orioles are lukewarm on Morneau as well as Mike Morse, tweets Scott Miller of CBS Sports.

12:11pm: Saunders is not a target for the Orioles right now, hears Connolly.

12:02pm: The Orioles are interested in a reunion with Joe Saunders, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. They also have some degree of interest in Oliver Perez, he adds.

10:57am: Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets that the Orioles feel the asking prices remain too high in their pursuits of upgrades to their offense and rotation.

10:47am: Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun tweets that the O's kicked around the idea of acquiring Morneau but don't see a fit due to his contract and lack of production. Nothing has heated up in recent days, he adds.

10:23am: The Orioles are still engaged in trade talks for Astros righty Bud Norris and Twins first baseman Justin Morneau, according to Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio (on Twitter).

Baltimore's interest in both players has been well-documented to this point, though they appear to have shown more interest in Norris than Morneau. Norris is controllable for two additional seasons and earning just $3MM in 2013, while the slumping Morneau is a free agent at season's end and is owed an additional $4.6MM through season's end.


West Notes: Affeldt, Wilson, Dodgers, Gonzalez, M’s

The Giants have lost left-handed reliever Jeremy Affeldt for four-to-six weeks after a MRI revealed a moderate strain of muscle and tendon in his left groin, reports Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. Jose Mijares will absorb most of Affeldt's innings, but CSNBayArea.com's Andrew Baggarly writes the Giants could, if history is any guide, look to acquire another lefty reliever. Baggarly notes it was nearly three years ago to the day Affeldt injured his oblique and GM Brian Sabean acquired Javier Lopez, an under-the-radar move which paid dividends as the Giants won the World Series. In other news and notes from MLB's West divisions:

  • While Affeldt's injury may change the calculus slightly, Baggarly, within that same article, sees the Giants continuing their quest for starting pitching. Manager Bruce Bochy loves Jake Peavy, but the two teams have not discussed a deal and the Giants don’t have the quantity or quality of trade chips to get a seat at the table, according to Baggarly.
  • Ex-Giants closer Brian Wilson is expected to begin showcasing his arm for teams within the next few weeks and the Giants have asked Wilson's representative to include them in the process, reports Schulman. Wilson underwent his second Tommy John surgery 15 month ago.
  • Dodgers GM Ned Colletti doesn't expect to make any franchise-altering deals prior to the Trade Deadline, according to Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times. "I don't know that that player is out there," Colletti said. "When I call around teams, there's not a lot of names of position players being discussed. I'm not sure if there's a market out there on the sell side."
  • Earlier today, we learned the Dodgers are prepared to offer Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez something in the neighborhood of $50MM over five years. Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com, however, tweets sources have told him the Dodgers' interest in the Cuban right-hander is not as fervent as has been portrayed. 
  • Manager Eric Wedge doesn't think the fourth-place Mariners, winners of six straight, will be active at the Trade Deadline, writes MLB.com's Greg Johns. "Unless it's something that raises the bar, I don't think we're going to do anything," said Wedge. "We're not going to move somebody just to move somebody." The Mariners have several veterans on one-year deals, who could be appealing to contenders, including left-handed reliever Oliver Perez, left-handed starter Joe Saunders, outfielder Raul Ibanez, first baseman Kendrys Morales, and shortstop Brendan Ryan.
  • Two years ago, the Dodgers had agreed to deals with both the Tigers and Red Sox for Hiroki Kuroda, but the right-hander invoked his no-trade clause to veto each trade. Through his interpreter, Kuroda provided FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal his rationale for refusing to join a team in the playoff hunt: if you only play for a team in August and September, it is not as meaningful as being with a club from Spring Training until the end of the season.

Cafardo On Saunders, Kubel, Reed, Tigers

In today's column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that the Pirates have lofty dreams and the talent to make them a reality.  “It’s certainly nice to feel that buzz in the city, and the recognition we get, it’s nothing we don’t deserve,” standout pitcher Jeff Locke said. “Some of our guys play with a chip on their shoulder because now that we’re doing well, everybody loves us. Everybody’s wearing Pirates hats. This city has a lot of passion for its sports teams. I know when the Bruins were playing the Penguins it would take me 45 minutes to go about four-10ths of a mile because of the traffic in the city. I know how passionate people are about their team. People are coming out and they believe in us.”  Here's more from today's column..

  • Mariners left-hander Joe Saunders should become a commodity after Matt Garza is moved and even though Seattle isn't looking to trade him, they'll certainly listen to offers.  Cafardo cautions not to be surprised if the Orioles look to reacquire him after he pitched so well for them late last season.
  • The Diamondbacks are open to dealing Jason Kubel if they can get a pitcher in return. Kubel, who hit 30 homers last season, has only five to go along with a .237/.315/.356 slash line.
  • White Sox closer Addison Reed is available, though the price will be much steeper than it was for Matt Thornton, or will be for Jesse Crain once he’s back in action.  There’s been a lot of speculation about the Tigers being a player for him, and all indications are that GM Rick Hahn would be willing to deal him to a division rival if the return was decent.
  • Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez is due to come off of the DL tomorrow and could become a trade chip for Milwaukee if he shows that he is healthy.


AL West Notes: DeShields, Mariners, Saunders

Over the weekend, the Astros locked up second baseman Jose Altuve to a low-risk four-year, $12.5MM extension that carries a pair of club options at $6MM and $6.5MM. All told, Altuve can be controlled through the 2019 season if the Astros choose, and those six years would cost a total of $25MM. Here's more out of the AL West…

  • In light of Altuve's extension, Brian T. Smith and Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle note that a position change is a possibility for top prospect Delino DeShields Jr., whose path to the Majors as a second baseman is now blocked. The No. 8 overall pick in the 2010 draft, DeShields is hitting .290/.388/.399 with 30 steals in 71 games this season at high Class A. Last season, he swiped 101 bases in 135 games. General manager Jeff Luhnow said for the time being, DeShields would finish the season as a second baseman.
  • The Rays are believed to have checked in on Mariners bats such as Raul Ibanez and Kendrys Morales, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports in the most recent edition of his Stock Watch column. He speculates that the Yankees and Rangers would also make sense as potential trade partners for Seattle.
  • From that same piece, Heyman adds that Joe Saunders is likely more available than either Morales or Ibanez. After a brutal start to the season, Saunders has a 2.37 ERA over his past nine starts. The Mariners are currently deciding when to begin a sale, says Heyman.

Orioles Seeking Rotation Upgrades

At 42-31, the Orioles have the second-best record in the American League. That impressive win total comes despite the fact that their starting pitchers, as a whole, have the fourth-worst ERA in the Majors at 4.76. Given that number, it's no surprise to see MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli write that the Orioles will be in the market for starting pitching help in her latest Orioles Inbox. According to Ghiroli, names like Ricky Nolasco, Bud Norris, Jason Vargas and Joe Saunders are on the team's radar. She adds that Mike Pelfrey's name has also surfaced.

No one from that group stands out as an ace-caliber pitcher, which meshes with Ghiroli's statement that the Orioles "would like to add at least one more pitcher to help eat innings and keep the bullpen fresh." That trade could come prior to the July 31 non-waiver deadline, or, if asking prices are high, executive VP of baseball operations Dan Duquette could make a waiver trade in August as he did in 2012 when he acquired Saunders from the Diamondbacks for Matt Lindstrom.

Asked about the Orioles seeking a potential upgrade at second base via the trade market, Ghiroli said that the team isn't looking for second base upgrades. Baltimore is satisfied with the defense of Ryan Flaherty, and Brian Roberts is nearing a rehab assignment. According to Ghiroli, the Orioles would prefer to "[funnel] any and all resources and trade chips into helping out the rotation."

Not surprisingly, the Orioles aren't willing to discuss Kevin Gausman or Dylan Bundy in trades, which is likely the reason for focusing on second- and third-tier trade targets. Of the five names mentioned, Norris figures to have the highest asking price. Only he is controlled beyond 2013; each of the other four can be free agents at season's end.

Earlier this season the O's were said to be looking for a top-of-the-rotation starter, but they seem to have shifted that focus. Given their unwillingness to part with Gausman or Bundy, it stands to reason that acquiring an ace-caliber arm would've been an unrealistic goal.


Tigers And Mariners Notes: Wells, Porcello, Loe

Former Tiger and current Mariner Casper Wells could be headed back to his old team, MLB.com's Jason Beck posits. "Maybe Casper Wells doesn’t make the Mariners roster," says Beck. "Maybe the Tigers can parlay their depth in another spot, maybe an extra reliever, into an extra outfielder." The Tigers currently have an open spot available for a righty-hitting outfielder. If they don't pursue one from outside the organization, that spot could go to Matt Tuiasosopo. Here are more notes from Detroit and Seattle.

  • The Tigers shouldn't trade pitcher Rick Porcello because doing so would weaken their depth, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman argues. The better move, Heyman suggests, would be to place Porcello in their starting rotation and use Drew Smyly as an insurance policy. That's a viewpoint Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski seems to appreciate: "Really, one of our big needs is starting pitching depth," says Dombrowski. "If we trade one of these guys [either Porcello or Smyly], then we hurt ourselves more in that area."
  • Heyman also notes that Dombrowski isn't nearly as eager as manager Jim Leyland to pursue a closer from outside the organization. "A manager and a general manager are in two different spots," Dombrowski says."I understand from a manager's perspective, he'd rather have one guy he can point to on a daily basis."
  • Jesus Montero's injury could complicate Kameron Loe's bid to be added to the Mariners' roster, Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times writes. Montero was struck in the head on Saturday by Francisco Lindor's backswing, and it's not clear when Montero will be able to return to action. If Montero isn't ready to go to start the season, the Mariners will have to add another catcher to the 40-man roster, perhaps Jesus Sucre. That might make it difficult for the Mariners to find space on their 40-man for Loe, and Loe can trigger an out clause in his contract on Monday.
  • Mariners pitcher Joe Saunders is happy to have the offseason behind him, MLB.com's John Schlegel reports. Saunders signed a one-year deal with the M's as a free agent. "It was nerve-racking, not knowing where you're going," he says. "It was the first real free agency for me, and it was an experience, for sure. It's a good one to be over with. I feel bad for Kyle Lohse."

Mariners Agree To Terms With Joe Saunders

FRIDAY, 5:30pm: Saunders' deal includes a mutual option for 2014 and is worth $6.5MM with an additional $1MM in incentives in year one, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter).  

2:21pm: Saunders will obtain about $7MM from the Mariners, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (on Twitter). The agreement also includes incentives.

THURSDAY: The Mariners have agreed to a one-year deal with free agent left-hander Joe Saunders, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter link).  The contract will become official once Saunders passes a physical.  Saunders is represented by Greg Genske.

Several teams (including the Orioles, Padres, Mets, Pirates and Twins) were interested in Saunders this winter, though the veteran southpaw couldn't find his desired three-year deal.  Minnesota offered Saunders a one-year contract and he also reportedly had a two-year, $15MM offer on the table from a mystery team.  The short commitment will allow Saunders to build value at pitcher-friendly Safeco Field and look for a multiyear deal again next winter.

Saunders, 31, posted a 4.07 ERA, a 5.8 K/9, a 2.0 BB/9 and a 43.1% ground ball rate in 28 starts with the Diamondbacks and Orioles in 2012.  Fangraphs' Dave Cameron points out that Saunders' numbers over the last three seasons are very similar to those of left-hander Jason Vargas, who the M's traded to the Angels for Kendrys Morales.  Saunders projects as the No. 3 starter in Seattle's rotation, behind Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma.

MLBTR's Tim Dierkes had Saunders ranked 25th on his list of the top 50 free agents of the 2012-13 offseason.  Presuming Saunders passes his physical, that would leave just three of those 50 players unsigned — Michael Bourn (ranked third), Kyle Lohse (10th) and Jose Valverde (44th).


Orioles Notes: Saunders, Jurrjens, Johnson

The Mariners agreed to sign Joe Saunders yesterday, which means the left-hander won’t be returning to Baltimore. Saunders and the Orioles had mutual interest in a new deal, but never reached an agreement. Here are the latest Orioles-related notes from Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun

  • It appears the Orioles offered Saunders a one-year deal, Encina writes. Saunders said he wanted to return to Baltimore and the Orioles maintained interest in re-signing him throughout the winter.
  • The Orioles have yet to finalize their one-year, $1.5MM agreement with Jair Jurrjens, and there’s a chance the deal will fall through. The Orioles were still receiving medical evaluations on Jurrjens as of last night, Encina reports. It’s becoming unclear whether the deal will be completed and it doesn’t seem to be headed in a positive direction. Orioles executives have long-standing concerns about Jurrjens’ health.
  • It’s possible the Orioles could offer Jim Johnson a two-year deal to cover his final arbitration seasons. However, it seems more likely that the sides will settle on a one-year contract. Johnson filed for $7.1MM in arbitration with the Orioles offering $5.7MM, as MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker shows. The Orioles have two other unsigned arb eligible players: Jason Hammel and Darren O’Day.

Mariners Close To Signing Joe Saunders

The Mariners are close to a one-year deal with free agent left-hander Joe Saunders, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter link).


Quick Hits: Marlins, Reds, Bourn, Lohse, Hendrickson

As February gets underway, Michael Bourn still stands as the best available free agent on the open market.  Jim Bowden of ESPN.com (on Twitter) opines that the Mets, Mariners, and Rays are the teams that make the most sense for the center fielder.  As for the best starter left on the free agent pile, Bowden sees the Red Sox, Rangers, Angels, Brewers, and Orioles as the best fits for Kyle Lohse.  Here's more from around baseball..

  • Don't look for the Marlins to make any major moves the remainder of the offseason, says Juan C. Rodriguez of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel (via Twitter). The team will enter spring training with the roster it currently has in place.
  • Regardless of whether or not Scott Rolen joins the Reds, John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes that the club is facing a serious roster crunch.  It seems that the veteran wants to play in 2013 but money will be a determining factor in his decision.  Recently, the Dodgers reached out to Rolen to express interest.
  • The Orioles expect to announce the signing of veteran left-handerMark Hendrickson to a minor league contract with a spring training invite early next week, according to Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com.  The O's also hope to announce their deal with Jair Jurrjens and remain interested in bringing Joe Saunders back despite the depth that they've added.
  • Torii Hunter says that enjoyed his time with the Angels, but he also felt misled when the club told him they didn't have enough money to keep him before signing Josh Hamilton to a five-year, $125MM deal, writes Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times.  The veteran hooked on with the Tigers this winter in pursuit of a World Series ring.
  • The Tigers had a tough time trying to find organizational depth this winter as many players figured that their path to the majors would be blocked, writes George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press.  Regardless, assistant General Manager Al Avila says that the club is done signing minor league players and is ready for spring training.

Daniel Seco contributed to this post.