The Phillies made a rather dramatic roster move today, announcing that righty Jeanmar Gomez and outfielder Michael Saunders have been designated for assignment in one fell swoop. Lefty Hoby Milner and outfielder Cameron Perkins have had their contracts purchased.
While there were never realistic hopes of contention in 2017, the Phillies’ worst-in-baseball 22-and-46 record nevertheless represents a considerable disappointment. These two veterans are hardly the only poor performers, but their pronounced struggles were increasingly hard to ignore.
Still, it’s a bit of a stunner to see the move take place. Gomez was the Phils’ closer for the bulk of 2016 and is earning a cool $4.2MM with one more year of arb control remaining. And Saunders landed in Philadelphia over the winter on a $9MM guarantee. The Phils were hoping they had scored a bargain when his market failed to develop, but will instead punt on the rest of that deal — including the rights to an $11MM option for 2018.
It’s never easy to give up on such highly paid players, but Philadelphia no doubt felt some pressure to shake things up. And the writing seemed to be on the wall for these players, whose continued presence might only have taken opportunities from younger options.
In the case of Gomez, 29, a poor finish last year has carried over — and then some. He has had some strong years in the past, despite frequently lagging peripherals, but currently owns a 7.25 ERA on 31 hits (including seven home runs) in 22 1/3 innings. Though Gomez is generating far more swings and misses than usual, to go with his typically strong groundball rate, he’s also backing himself into a corner with a career-low 53.0% first-pitch strike rate.
The developments are yet more surprising with regard to Saunders, 30, who was streaky but generally quite good in 2016. He’s slashing just .205/.257/.360 with six home runs through 214 plate appearances on the season thus far. Though his .245 BABIP suggests some misfortune, Saunders is also making a lot of soft contact and has seen his typically solid walk rate dive to 6.1%.
As for the newcomers, the 26-year-old Milner gets his first call-up after failing to crack the Indians’ roster as a Rule 5 pick. he has posted a 2.60 ERA with 27 strikeouts and just four walks over 27 2/3 innings at Triple-A. Perkins, also 26, has previously failed to master the highest level of the minors. But the former sixth-round pick is carrying an excellent .298/.388/.476 slash through 241 plate appearances there this year.