The Pirates have inked a minor-league deal with outfielder Michael Saunders, per a club announcement. He has been invited to participate in the MLB side of camp.
Saunders, 31, has had something of a roller-coaster career to this point. After an injury-riddled run with the Mariners, he seemed to turn a corner in 2016 with the Blue Jays. Saunders ran up a .253/.338/.478 slash through 558 plate appearances, though the bulk of the output came in the first half of the season.
The open market was not quite as kind to Saunders as many anticipated, but he still commanded a $9MM guarantee to join the Phillies in advance of the 2017 season. Things just did not work out in Philadelphia, though, as Saunders limped to a .205/.257/.360 slash before being cut loose. He ended up back with the Toronto organization but was not overly impressive at Triple-A or in a brief, late-season return to the majors.
Those ups and downs have shown up in baserunning and fielding metrics, too, perhaps reflecting the role that injuries have played. Saunders has at times graded as a high-end threat on the bases (2012-13) and corner outfield defender (2014), but received below-average marks in both areas in 2016 before bouncing back somewhat in his 73 total MLB games in the following campaign.
Pittsburgh enters Spring Training with several options for filling the outfield vacancy created by the trade of Andrew McCutchen. It could be that Saunders will battle Daniel Nava (a switch-hitter who’s much better against righties) for a single spot. Saunders carries narrow platoon splits over his career, it’s worth noting. That represents a point of distinction from Nava, who was productive when healthy last year but has never hit a lick against southpaws.
Perhaps both players could earn jobs if they are sufficiently impressive, but that seems like a tight fit. The Bucs could utilize southpaw-swinging utilityman Adam Frazier in the outfield, after all. And the team will need to ensure that it has the other pieces needed for a platoon, with right-handed hitters Bryce Brentz and Sean Rodriguez providing options.
If he’s not able to crack the Opening Day roster, Saunders will presumably spend some time digging in against Triple-A pitching in hopes of getting back to form. (Whether and when he can opt out of his deal is not yet known.) Given the amount of uncertainty at the major-league level for the Pirates, Saunders should at a minimum represent a worthwhile depth option to have on hand.
More to come? Nope. No thanks. That’s all I’ll need to hear on this topic.
The Pirates will suck.
But wait. There’s more to come, Yes.
Per update: Saunders’ Pirates Deal was torn up.
Saunders’ Agent, Barry Meister said the Pirates allowed his client to persue other opportunities, and the team “should be commended for their player-friendly, honest and transparent behavior.”
Bonus: Pirates got Corey Dickerson, instead.
Saunders just signed with the Royals
Saunders’ bat was dead wood in Philly.
His contract was dead money.
wow! the pirates signed a FA!!
To a minors deal. Can’t even dish out a Majors pact to fill one spot
I know hindsight is 20/20, but I still never really understood why the Phillies signed him. 9mil for a 1/2 year of good production on a clearly re-tooling ballclub? Did they expect to flip him? Anyway, GREAT news for the Pirates!
Going into 2017 the Phillies only had Herrera as a reliable starter. Nava is explained in this article,Howie Kendrick was coming off a down year in La,Altherr hit under 200 and wasn’t healthy in 2016, and Saunders was coming off an all star season,but struggled in the 2nd half. On paper he looked like the Phillies 2nd best outfielder.And hitting in a hitters park,he was a bounce back candidate.If he hit 240 with a little pop,he could’ve netted a lottery ticket prospect. Unfortunately,there wasn’t enough air in the bounce. Maybe he’ll find it this year in Pittsburgh.
You are forgetting about Hernandez.
Bryce Brentz and Daniel Nava are better
Probably why it’s a minor league deal for depth.
Nava and Saunders are serviceable depth. Brentz is a lotto ticket. Frazier is the opening day LF and will shift back to 2B after Harrison is traded and Meadows is promoted.
I’d much rather have Frazier in LF than any of the guys that they have acquired over the last few weeks.
If Harrison is traded it is probably around the time Kramer is going to be called up.
If they call up any middle infielder, they’d call-up Newman. He’s had more time in Triple-A. Kramer hasn’t played above Double-A.
Yeah he’ll be called up as well.baring injury but he’ll be playing at short as he’d probably be a bigger upgrade at short than second… along with the fact that he’s never played 2nd in his pro career. Kramer is pretty much stuck at second base while Newman can do short decently though he may up having to move to the other side of the bag at some point.
Had Kramer not busted his hand he may have been in AAA to finish the season.
Both ‘should’ see time in 2018
Most likely Brentz will make the roster ahead of Luplow and Jose Osuna, being they still have options left. So the last bench spot should come down to one of Saunders or Nava.
Man, I’m glad we shored up that OF we really needed another dumpster diving free agent pickup. Us Pirates fans will all sleep better at night now!!
well if he can produce like his fist half in the 2016 season, he’ll be fine
I’m not gonna hold my breath on that.
Good decision there. Me thinks you would be turning quite blue from the lack of oxygen !
This signing is very reminiscent to when they signed Matt Joyce to a minor league deal entering the 2016 season.
He is one of those players that when I see “Saunders, 31,” I think…”that has to be a typo…he has been playing forever.” Hard to believe it’s only been 9 seasons.
IIRC correctly this guy opted to have his meniscus removed when he injured his knee with Toronto, so he could return sooner. He’s never been the same player since.
Carlos Gomez signed for 4mil plus incentives, Cory Dickerson is available, we go out and get Saunders. Great job.
Gomez is going to start for the Rays and Dickerson probably has a plethora of options. This was a depth move and nothing else. Trust me I’d like the Pirates to be major buyers too but this is what the Pirates do and it makes more sense than whatever the Rays are doing.
Gomez could start on the pirates too.
Outfield: Gomez left, Marte center, Polanco right
Infield: Cervelli catcher, Bell first, Frazier second, Mercer short, Harrison third
Bench: freese, Rodriguez, Diaz, Brentz, Nava
he could, maybe depending on which Gomez shows up… but thankfully he isn’t
The expectation is that Meadows will be up at some point this season. If you’re Gomez it’s a no brainer why you’d go to the Rays instead of maybe half a season of being a starter for the Pirates.
It’s a no-risk signing, but probably a no-reward one as well. I don’t know if Saunders does anything well enough at this stage of his career that you’d want to keep him around to do it.
He was too pull happy in Philly, if he can utilize the whole field again maybe he’ll be a great signing.
Whatever he was in Philly….. he sucked and stole money.
at this point it seems the pirates are picking up bats that have “pop” potential to try to pick up slugging numbers.
Frazier is probably a better player than any of the players they picked up, and will probably get the bulk of the at bats from Left…. at least while J-Hay is on the team… but if one of these guys has a strong spring then all the better.
Watched Saunders a lot in Toronto. When he is healthy and hittng he is a beast. When not, he is awful. Which Saunders will show up? Methinks the latter, although he may get on a run. Bargain basement signing for sure.
Think its clear, the pirates have made the decision they aren’t spending any fa money on this roster in 18′. Its a true shame too. There are payers out there, they absolutely can afford that can help the team immensely, yet they refuse bec they don’t want to spend any $. Smh Smh Man, its brutal being a fan of this team and not wishing bad things on the owner.
After trading Cole and Cutch, I don’t really want them to waste money on this year’s team anyway, they’re not going to win regardless. What they could (and should) do is reinvest into next year’s stacked FA class (maybe Grandal and another pitcher, depending on who works out this year).
unless they’re getting one of the top free agents (jake, yu, jd or something).. there really isn’t a lot out there that would be a huge upgrade over what they think they’ll be getting with what they got.
Dyson and Nunez were the biggest and probably best position options realistically available and they’re marginal upgrades and probably would end up being replaced by prospects next season (if they stay healthy).
I’d still like to see a decent pen arm added though, but i think many of them are off the board as well.