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Joe Saunders Rumors
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.
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.
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."
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).
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.
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.
Rangers shortstop Jurickson Profar tops MLB.com's list of the top 100 prospects in baseball for 2013. Profar has been the subject of many trade rumors this winter but the Rangers are unwilling to move him, for good reason given his high ceiling. Of the six prospects atop MLB.com's list, two (Wil Myers and Travis d'Arnaud) were dealt to new teams this offseason and another (Taijuan Walker) would have been on the move were it not for Justin Upton's no-trade clause.
Here are some items from around the Majors…
- Joe Saunders has been offered a two-year deal worth roughly $15MM from an unknown team, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports, though his sources aren't directly involved in the negotiations. The Orioles aren't the mystery team, as Baltimore would prefer to sign Saunders to a one-year deal with a team option for the second year. Connolly says the O's are still interested in Saunders despite their recent agreement with Jair Jurrjens. Besides the O's, the Mariners and Twins have also been linked to Saunders this winter, and the Twins have offered Saunders a one-year deal.
- The White Sox are still looking for a left-handed hitter, MLB.com Scott Merkin tweets. Such a player is likely to be a platooner or bench depth at this point in the offseason.
- Paul Konerko tells CSN Chicago's Chuck Garfien that his on-field performance won't be the key factor if he decides to retire after the 2013 season. "Don't look at the numbers, that if things are going well [in 2013], that necessarily means I would play [after this season]. And the reverse of that is true, too," Konerko said. It was almost a year ago that Konerko told Garfien that he was pondering retirement once his contract is up.
- It's hard to find ace-level pitching available in a trade, but Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal cites Yovani Gallardo, Ian Kennedy and Jarrod Parker as pitchers who could be on the block should their teams fall out of contention next season. Parker may seem like a premature trade target but MacPherson notes that "the Athletics have a history of trading young pitchers for even younger pitchers."
- The Rangers have signed the most international prospects that appear in Baseball America's 2013 Prospect Handbook, B-A's Ben Badler writes. Fifteen international players originally signed by the Rangers are ranked either among their own top 30 prospects or in the top-30 lists of other teams, as determined by Baseball America. At the bottom of the list are the Astros, who have just two international signings ranked.
The Twins would like to sign Joe Saunders to a one-year deal, Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN.com reports. The team is waiting to hear back from agent Greg Genske, who represents the free agent left-hander.
The Twins don’t want to meet Saunders’ asking price of a three-year deal, but could be willing to offer a two-year contract. One Twins source wonders if Saunders prefers to pitch elsewhere, Wolfson reports.
Twins GM Terry Ryan acknowledged that he’s waiting to hear from some free agent starters, saying it's "just a matter of their interest in us." Ryan elaborated, saying "I don't know why somebody wouldn't want to come here who's a legitimate starter." Owner Jim Pohlad told Wolfson "there's definitely payroll flexibility" should Ryan find the right player.
Saunders has also drawn interest from the Mariners and Orioles this offseason. The Padres don’t appear to have interest, however. Saunders entered the offseason as MLBTR's 25th ranked free agent. Among players ranked ahead of Saunders, only Kyle Lohse and Michael Bourn remain unsigned.
Mariners General Manager Jack Zduriencik won't get into details about contract negotiations with Felix Hernandez but he told reporters today that he has "every intention of keeping Felix [in Seattle] for the long-term", tweets Greg Johns of MLB.com. Here's more on the M's..
- Jack Z also said that the door is "wide open" for a young pitcher to make the starting five, but the GM would prefer to add a veteran, according to Larry Stone of the Seattle Times (on Twitter).
- That veteran just might be Joe Saunders, who has the interest of the Mariners as well as the Orioles. It's not clear who the other teams with interest in the left-hander, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
- The Mariners will also look to add another catcher or two prior to Spring Training in support of Jesus Montero, Johns tweets.