With the opening of Spring Training exactly four weeks away, the Phillies made a solid offensive addition to their roster with the signing of outfielder Michael Saunders, who had a career season with Toronto in 2016.
Saunders, who turned 30 in November, hit 24 home runs and hit .253 in 140 games with the Blue Jays last season. Most of the damage that he did came in the first half of the season when he hit 16-42-.298/.372/.551, compared to his 8-15-.178/.282/.357 performance in the second half of the season for Toronto. Saunders has played in all or part of eight seasons and has a career mark of 75-242-.235/.309/.402 with Seattle and Toronto. His first six seasons were with the Mariners, who drafted him in the 11th round of the 2004 Draft out of Tallahassee Community College.
In 2012, Saunders hit 19 home runs for Seattle in 139 games and batted .247 with the Mariners.
Saunders missed much of the 2015 season after having knee surgery to remove a chunk of the meniscus in his left knee. The decision to remove the meniscus rather than attempt to repair the injury was made by Saunders to lessen his rehab time. Following the 2014 season, the Mariners had traded Saunders to Toronto for former Phillies pitcher J.A. Happ. Saunders, who is Canadian, was looking forward to playing for the Blue Jays and suffered the injury in Spring Training. The decision to remove the meniscus means that Saunders is more likely to have issues, like arthritis, with the knee later in life. As it turned out, the injury was severe enough that the portion of the meniscus would have had to be removed anyway.
After Saunders returned from the surgery, he was again sidelined with inflammation in the knee, which landed him on the 60-day DL. He wound up playing just nine games for Toronto that season.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the deal will pay Saunders $9-million this season and holds a club option for between 11 and $14-million for 2018, depending on escalators that could increase the value of the option year.
The Phillies have spent much of the offseason looking for a left-handed bat that they could put into a corner outfield spot for the upcoming season. Saunders fits that role, along with being a veteran player who was willing to accept a shorter contract that wouldn't necessarily block any of the young outfield prospects coming through the Phillies organization.
There were reportedly two or three other teams, including the Blue Jays, who were attempting to sign Saunders. Just two days ago, Saunders told reporters that he was interested in re-signing with Toronto. Earlier in the offseason, Saunders announced that he plans to play for Canada in the World Baseball Classic, which will take place in March.
Michael Saunders career stats