Orioles general manager Dan Duquette said Sunday that he’s comfortable with a platoon of Hyun Soo Kim and Joey Rickard in left field. There’s no clear answer in right field, however, which is where Saunders could enter the equation. The 30-year-old has primarily manned left field in his career, including in 2016 as a member of the the Blue Jays – the team that knocked the Orioles out of the playoffs.
At the midway point of last season, Saunders looked as though he was playing his way to a qualifying offer and a lucrative multiyear pact. In 344 first-half plate appearances, the former Mariner batted an outstanding .298/.372/.551 with 16 home runs and a .252 ISO en route to his first All-Star appearance. Saunders’ production cratered thereafter – .178/.282/.357 with eight HRs and a .178 ISO in 214 PAs – which put a damper on his seemingly skyrocketing value and led the Blue Jays to elect against tendering him a qualifying offer. It also didn’t help that Saunders graded poorly in left, ranking toward the bottom of the majors in Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating.
While he comes with negatives, including a checkered injury history, Saunders would add some variety to a Baltimore lineup whose only current lefty-swinging everyday player is first baseman Chris Davis. He’s also not going to sign for a bank-breaking price, with MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes projecting a three-year, $33MM deal (from the Orioles, in fact). That’s the same contract the O’s nearly signed outfielder Dexter Fowler to last offseason.