Blue Jays acquire Michael Saunders from Mariners for J.A. Happ


Now this move has a little more teeth to it. After signing Ezequiel Carrera to a minor league deal earlier in the day, we were starting to wonder if that was the anticipated outfield move for the Toronto Blue Jays. However, Alex Anthoupoulos quickly put that to rest, acquiring outfielder Michael Saunders from the Seattle Mariners for pitcher J.A. Happ, according to Jayson Stark of ESPN.

The Blue Jays have been tied to Saunders almost since the onset of the offseason, so it was no surprise that Toronto brings another Canadian player into the fold. By moving J.A. Happ in the deal as well, the Blue Jays make this a winning transaction all around.

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Firstly, Toronto acquires a 28-year-old outfielder with a ton of promise to man left field in 2015. Saunders started to show that he was finally converting that promise to talent in 2014, hitting .273/.340/.450 with 8 home runs and 34 RBI in just 78 games of action last season. However, he lost large chunks of the year with a right shoulder strain, an oblique injury, and a subsequent viral infection. However, we did manage to put up 1.9 Wins Above Replacement and a wRC+of 126 in that limited duty.

Over the course of his six year career, Saunders is a .231/.301/.384 hitter with a wRC+ of 92. Before the trade, Steamer projects him out as putting up 2.4 wins with a wRC+ of 110 and a slash-line of .244/.324/.405. That stands to increase a tad by moving his bat from the cavernous Safeco Field to the friendlier hitting confines of Rogers Centre.

Oh, and let’s not forget that the native of Victoria, British Columbia brings an obvious Canadian flavor to a roster that already includes Dalton Pompey and Russell Martin.

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The acquisition of Saunders, while not necessarily putting the nail in the coffin of Melky Cabrera’s return to Toronto, almost assuredly guarantees that Toronto is moving on from the Melkman, who is drawing vast interest in a market devoid of true outfield options. Instead, the Blue Jays will move on and collect their compensation pick, replacing the draft pick lost when they signed Martin earlier this winter.

In the process, the Blue Jays found a home for J.A. Happ and his $6.7 million contract. Given Saunders likely arbitration increase, the Blue Jays still stand to save nearly $3 million in the deal.  The Blue Jays now have a bit more money to allocate to the team’s bullpen needs, or chase an upgrade at second base.

That said, the trade still costs the Blue Jays some rotation depth in 2015, losing a pitcher that went 11-11 last season with a 4.22 ERA and a career-best 2.61 K/BB ratio. While Happ didn’t necessarily excite many fans, and some downright loathed him and his inconsistencies, he did provide the Blue Jays with a relatively stable presence at the back end of the rotation.

However, the trade does have a pleasant side effect as well, as it opens up a spot in the rotation for Aaron Sanchez, the team’s top pitching prospect. While Sanchez threw admirably from the bullpen in 2015 and it was beginning to look like he may be the team’s best option at closer, his future has always been in the rotation and now the roadblock has been removed.

As I said, this deal is a win-win for the Blue Jays, and still leaves them with the opportunity and resources to make more upgrades this winter.