The Mariners and Joe Saunders have agreed to a minor league contract with an invite to Major League Spring Training, writes MLB.com’s Greg Johns.
Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune reported yesterday that the Mariners were interested in a minor league deal with the Legacy Agency client and viewed him as a potential left-handed relief option. As I noted at the time, Saunders has been quietly excellent against lefties over the past two seasons, even if his overall numbers are undeniably troublesome. Though Saunders pitched to a 5.26 ERA over 183 innings with the 2013 Mariners and a 6.70 ERA in 43 innings for the Rangers and Orioles last year, he’s held opposing left-handed hitters to a paltry .230/.270/.308 batting line in that time.
The Mariners have a definite hole in the bullpen with the departure of Joe Beimel, who worked to a 2.20 ERA in 45 innings (56 appearances) as a lefty specialist last year. GM Jack Zduriencik recently told reporters that he spoke to Beimel’s camp and the two sides simply weren’t able to come to an agreement. That’s hardly surprising, given the fact that Dutton tweeted last night that Beimel is looking for a multi-year deal coming off his solid season.
In his 10-year big league career, Saunders has worked almost exclusively as a starter. However, he’s also held lefties to a .241/.288/.329 batting line. If he does make the Mariners’ bullpen and enjoy a solid season as a left-handed relief option, he could enjoy a career renaissance similar to that of Oliver Perez, who, interestingly enough, also established himself as a reliever in Seattle.
As Johns notes, Saunders could be competing with Lucas Luetge, Mike Kickham, Rule 5 pick David Rollins and non-roster invitee Rafael Perez for a spot as a second lefty in the bullpen. Charlie Furbush will be the team’s top left-handed option once again in 2015.