Joe Saunders reportedly agrees to one-year deal
According to Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com, the club has come to an agreement with veteran left-hander Joe Saunders on a one-year deal, pending the completion of a physical.
This news came on the heels of an earlier report that Felix Hernandez is close to finalizing a long-term contract extension, plus word from the club that catcher Kelly Shoppach had signed a one-year deal and reliever Shawn Kelley was designated for assignment.
The Mariners wouldn’t confirm the Saunders’ report on Thursday evening, but general manager Jack Zduriencik has been pursuing an proven pitcher to add to the rotation since dealing Jason Vargas to the Angels for Kendrys Morales in December and this one makes perfect sense.
Saunders, 31, would give Seattle a third veteran to go along with Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma as the Mariners also bring along a host of talented youngsters that include returners Erasmo Ramirez and Blake Beavan and top prospects Danny Hultzen, James Paxton, Taijuan Walker and Brandon Maurer.
Saunders went 9-13 with a 4.07 ERA last season for Arizona and Baltimore, finishing out the season with a 3-3 mark and 3.63 ERA in seven starts with the Orioles after a late-August trade.
He then pitched very well in two playoff games for the Orioles, beating the Rangers 5-1 while scattering six hits over 5 2/3 innings, then getting a no-decision in a 2-1 victory over the Yankees when he allowed just one run and three hits over another 5 2/3.
Saunders would add a left-hander to a rotation that has only right-handed returners, though Hultzen and Paxton are both southpaws coming up.
Saunders, who spent the first six years of his career with the Angels, has a 6-0 record and 2.13 ERA in 55 innings over nine starts at Safeco Field. His career record is 78-65 with a 4.15 ERA in 189 games.
The Virginia native was an All-Star in 2008 when he went 17-7 with a 3.41 ERA for the Angels. He became a free agent this year after earning $6 million in 2012.
Saunders essentially would slide into Vargas’ spot in the rotation and allow the club to take a little more time with its youngsters. Without Saunders in the picture, Hector Noesi or one of the prospects penciled in as the fifth starter, assuming Beavan and Ramirez took the other two spots.
The rotation looks a lot more solid with Saunders in the picture. Now the challenge will be finding ways to avoid confusion with outfielder Michael Saunders, but that’s a problem the Mariners will gladly deal with at least for the coming season.