Veteran outfielder Michael Saunders has announced his retirement as a player, telling Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi that he’ll hang up his spikes after suiting up next month for Team Canada as it attempts to qualify for the 2020 Olympics. Saunders did not play professionally in 2019 — his first season of inactivity since he kicked off his minor-league career in 2005.
With the end of his playing career now firmly in sight, Saunders is moving onto the next phase of his baseball journey. The 32-year-old revealed that the Braves have named him the manager of their Rookie-level affiliate in the Appalachian League.
Originally selected in the 11th round of the 2004 draft, Saunders moved steadily up the ranks of the Mariners farm system and debuted in the majors in 2009 at 22 years of age. Saunders struggled to gain traction until 2012, when he kicked off a three-year run over which he slashed .248/.320/.423 (111 OPS+) in 1,284 plate appearances.
After being swapped to the Blue Jays, Saunders endured an injury-crushed 2015 campaign before turning in his best full season in the majors in the ensuing year. Over 558 plate appearances in 2016, Saunders launched 24 home runs and turned in a strong .253/.338/.478 batting line.
Unfortunately, the bulk of the damage he did in 2016 came in the first half of the year. That earned Saunders an All-Star nod but also meant that he hit the open market with a questionable outlook, ultimately landing a $9MM guarantee from the Phillies on a one-year deal with a club option. He ended up falling well shy of expectations and was cut loose mid-season.
Saunders appeared briefly again with the Blue Jays late in 2017 but hasn’t been back in the majors since. He signed minors deals with the Pirates, Royals, Orioles, White Sox, and Rockies — appearing at the top affiliates of the Baltimore and Chicago organizations in 2018 — but was unable to generate positive momentum.
Ultimately, Saunders wraps up his playing career with at least some time in nine MLB campaigns. Over 2,747 career plate appearances, he carried a .232/.305/.397 batting line. MLBTR wishes Saunders well in his new pursuit.