Michael Saunders will don a Phillies jersey for the first time this coming season after signing a one-year deal, but as the outfielder tells Ryan Lawrence of PhillyVoice.com, he was nearly a long-term piece for the Phillies back in 2009. Saunders was originally reported to be part of the return the Phillies would receive in trading Cliff Lee to the Mariners, and he was indeed on the verge of being included in that deal, he now says. “They said I was on the Sportscenter tracker in the trade where we were getting Cliff Lee in that three-way deal,” Saunders says. “So I called my agent and he had to do a little bit of digging, he made some calls, called me back and he said, ‘You know what, it’s time to to start packing your bags.” The outfielder goes on to explain that he was, however, a “last-minute subtraction” from the trade that ultimately proved to net a disappointing haul for the Phils. (Tyson Gillies, Phillippe Aumont and J.C. Ramirez went to Philadelphia in the deal, none of whom provided any real value to the team.)
Saunders also spoke about his second-half drop in production, and he believes his inability to work out early in the preceding offseason (due to 2015 knee surgery) led to a good deal of fatigue in the season’s second half. Lawrence’s column is full of quotes from the new Phillies’ right fielder, and I’d recommend a full read-through for those that are interested.
A few more notes from the NL East…
- MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki fields a number of roster-related question in his latest Phillies Inbox, addressing additional moves, the backup catcher’s role, J.P. Crawford’s timeline and some rumors that surrounded Cesar Hernandez earlier this winter. Zolecki notes that while further minor league deals could be handed out — he specifically notes that the bullpen could be an area of need — the Phils are likely done adding significant pieces this winter. He also calls Andrew Knapp the favorite to serve as Cameron Rupp’s backup in 2017, though veterans Ryan Hanigan and Bryan Holaday will do their best to give him a run for his money in Spring Training as non-roster invites.
- The Braves have an unexpectedly deep bullpen picture and a number of options heading into 2017, writes MLB.com’s Mark Bowman in a very comprehensive (and highly recommended) breakdown of the relief corps in Atlanta. Strong late-season performances from right-hander Jose Ramirez (who is out of minor league options) and waiver claim Chaz Roe give the Braves two intriguing arms to complement righties Jim Johnson, Arodys Vizcaino and Mauricio Cabrera. Ian Krol looks to have one spot locked down, while Paco Rodriguez could battle to be a second lefty in manager Brian Snitker’s bullpen. However, the Braves are also intrigued by Rule 5 pick Armando Rivero, who whiffed 105 batters in 67 2/3 Triple-A innings last season. And the team has plenty of experienced non-roster arms as well, including Eric O’Flaherty, Jordan Walden and Blaine Boyer. That latter of the trio is the likeliest to make the team’s Opening Day roster in Bowman’s estimation.
- Greg Holland is headed to the Rockies after agreeing to a one-year deal a couple of days ago, and FanRag’s Jon Heyman tweets that the Nationals are still in the market for a closer after watching the former Royals star head elsewhere. Washington was reportedly interested in Holland and one of the final teams in the mix, but it appears their search for a late-inning arm will continue. As Heyman points out, Sergio Romo is among the most experience right-handed options remaining on the market, while the trade market still has David Robertson and Alex Colome, though the latter is viewed as unlikely to be moved. FOX’s Ken Rosenthal wrote late last night that the Nationals aren’t as willing to spend on “lesser relievers” as they were on an elite arm like Kenley Jansen (to whom they offered more than $80MM). The Nats are also reluctant to trade prospects, he adds. MASNsports.com’s Pete Kerzel writes that it’s looking more and more likely that the Nats will go with internal options, as they don’t appear to have been especially active in attempting to trade for a late-inning arm due to the asking prices put forth by other teams.