The Blue Jays are reportedly pursing a MiLB deal with their former left fielder, Michael Saunders. He was designated for assignment by the Phillies last week.
I considered simply writing, “I have no idea” on this page, and leaving the rest of it blank, but that wouldn’t be very nice, or 100% accurate either.
I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who raised their eyebrows when the news broke of the Blue Jays interest in Michael Saunders, their former outfielder, and a quick scan of Twitter proves that notion to be correct. While fans are always happy to see a Canadian thriving in the big leagues, especially in Toronto, it’s pretty hard to imagine the 30 year old doing that these days.
After making the All-Star team and having a stellar first half of 2016, he’s completely fallen apart at the plate since. He was hitting just .205/.257/.360 with six home runs and 20 RBI over the span of 200 at bats when he was designated. That was after hitting .178/.282/.357 after the All-Star break last season.
The Phillies decided to take a chance on him this past offseason, giving him one year, nine million dollar deal in hopes that he could find his form from the first half, and unfortunately he never did, at least not while in Philadelphia.
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Many Blue Jays fans have been crying for an upgrade in left field this season, and the news that they’re are looking at Saunders wasn’t exactly met with a chorus of applause. However, fans shouldn’t overreact, especially if things work out as they reportedly sound like they will.
If they do bring back “Captain Canada”, it’s a near certainty that will it will be on a minor league pact. The Phillies will be on the hook for his contract anyway, so all a team would have to do is offer him a pro-rated minimum salary. From the reports surfacing on social media, it sounds like the Jays are pursing a minor league deal.
In that case, he would start his second go around in Toronto by making a stop in Buffalo, where he would presumably have to force his way on to the big league roster. If injuries continue to bite the team with the frequency they have thus far, he may not have to wait all that long to get a shot to re-establish himself. In a perfect world, he would mash his way out of Triple A and return to his All-Star form.
Which brings us to the second argument for giving him a shot. You often hear GM’s say things like, “he’s only a year removed from being a star”, or “it wasn’t that long ago he was…”, and that argument could be made for Saunders. I’m sure that’s why the Phillies took a shot on him this last offseason, only it cost them nine million to find out the answer was a hard no in red and white.
He’s also still just 30 years old, and brings a left-handed bat with him, and one that has had success hitting for average and for power, albeit in distant, and relatively small sample sizes. I’m grasping a little, but we’re trying to look at the upside here.
On a cost nothing deal with nothing to lose, the old saying, “there’s no such thing as a bad minor league contract” is certainly true here, even if it feels far fetched to believe he can return to form. He’ll really need to turn things around in order to jump ahead of Ezequiel Carrera and/or Steve Pearce, and he’ll also have the likes of Dwight Smith Jr, and hopefully the eventually healthy Dalton Pompey and Anthony Alford.
If he is signed, Blue Jays fans shouldn’t expect to see him in Toronto any time soon, and his addition doesn’t preclude them from chasing anyone else either. For those reasons, bringing back the Victoria, BC native makes some sense, even if there aren’t many people jumping up and down with the rumours swirling.