The Orioles announced that they’ve signed Michael Saunders to a minor league contract. The veteran outfielder, a client of Meister Sports Management, will head to Triple-A Norfolk to open the season. FanRag’s Jon Heyman tweets that Saunders’ deal comes with a $1.5MM base salary in the Majors and up to $3MM of additional incentives.
Saunders, 31, struggled through a nightmarish 2017 season with the Phillies and Blue Jays, hitting a combined .202/.356/.354 with six homers in 234 trips to the plate. That, however, came on the heels of a 2016 All-Star selection — albeit one which came as part of a highly uneven season. Saunders slashed a terrific .298/.372/.551 in the first half with the 2016 Blue Jays before cratering with a .178/.282/.357 slash following the All-Star Game.
When healthy, Saunders has demonstrated an ability to play all three outfield slots as well as average or better power. The speed he once possessed has largely fallen by the wayside in recent years, perhaps not surprisingly in the wake of a 2015 operation to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee — an injury that continued to plague him throughout the 2015 campaign.
At present, Saunders is probably best suited for corner outfield duties, though Colby Rasmus made Baltimore’s Opening Day roster as a left-handed-hitting corner bat with a similar skill set, meaning Saunders will likely have to wait for an opportunity in Baltimore. As Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com observes (Twitter link), Saunders will join a crowded Norfolk outfield mix which already includes lefties Alex Presley, Jaycob Brugman and D.J. Stewart (to say nothing of top outfield prospect Austin Hays, who’ll be receiving everyday at-bats there).