Should Blue Jays Target Mariners Michael Saunders?
The season that Melky Cabrera had for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2014 was one that could and should lead to a big pay day for the controversial left fielder. With the recent addition of Canadian Russell Martin it is unlikely that Alex Anthopoulos will spend big on another free-agent this off-season, but this writer is still hopeful. That means that AA will have to look else where to fill the shoes of the Melkman.
Why not Michael Saunders?
Let’s start to accumulate as many Canadians as possible and truly make this Canada’s team. The Jays already signed Martin and LHP Jeff Francis (minor league contract) this off-season. There’s been rumours aplenty swirling around the possibility of Dalton Pompey being Toronto’s centre fielder in 2015. We already have Brett Lawrie manning 3rd base….or is it 2nd base?
All kidding aside, at the right price acquiring Saunders makes sense to the Blue Jays. This is a risky proposal. Saunders hasn’t exactly been a model of health or consistency. It is far more likely that his health issues are the root of his inconsistencies, than it is that their are mutual exclusive of each other. Saunders has experienced should and oblique issues in 2014. His injury history extends beyond 2014 and should be considered a double edge sword for Blue Jay fans, but you have to love the way he goes after the ball in the field (watch 2013 injury/catch below).
On the one hand it should allow AA to acquire him a little cheaper. On the other hand he will be playing on turf which should raise concerns about his long-term durability.
There does seem to be quit a bit of attention surrounding Saunders at this point in the off-season. The Royals, Orioles, Twins, White Sox, Tigers, and I would love to throw the Blue Jays onto this list. Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumours (full article) seems to agree with me:
"I’d think the Blue Jays, Twins and Orioles are also among teams that could make sense, though all of these suggestions are purely speculative for the time being."
Saunders hasn’t exactly put up awe inspiring number so far in his career and could turn out to be just as frustrating to Blue Jay fans as Colby Rasmus was during his time in Toronto, but he’s a better option than Kevin Pillar at this point and over spending on Melky Cabrera.
Saunders is a guy that could hit 20 homers, steal 20 bases, and provide the Jays with an above average fielder in LF. He could fill in at CF and RF when necessary. In 2014, he hit 4 home runs in 38 games at Safeco Field. If healthy, Saunders should have no problems hitting over 20 home runs at the Rogers Centre and playing in the American League East, notorious for its homer friendly parks. His splits are pretty even. We all know how the Jays struggled against LHP last year, so this would be a welcome addition.
With Melky gone, Saunders could slide right into the second spot of the order. This would allow Gibson to utilize his speed, his solid .341 OPS, and having Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion batting behind him should get him a few extra fastballs that he could groove. Saunders may not replace Cabrera’s production but he will replace Rasmus’, while providing a more consistent bat. Rasmus struck out 33% of the time in 2014; where as, Saunders only struck out 22.4% of the time.
To recap: Saunders would provide the Blue Jays with a better fielder than both Cabrera and Rasmus according to 2014’s URZ, 3.6, -5.8,and -9.1 respectively. Saunders provides the Jays with more power than Cabrera according to their 2014 ISO, .177 and .157. Saunders gives the Jays more speed on the base paths. Lastly, he is freaking Canadian….We own the North.
Not sure what it would take to land Saunders, so I will allow this discussion to spill over into the comment section.