Phillies to Sign Free Agent Michael Saunders

The Phillies came to terms with free agent outfielder Michael Saunders today.  It has been reported that he agreed to a one-year contract at $9M with an $11M club option and $1M buyout for 2018.  The signing occurs in the wake of team president Andy MacPhail stating during an interview on the MLB Network last week that the Phillies were in search of a left-handed bat.

To many, Saunders represents the left-handed power that the team needs to bolster its offensively challenged line up.  The 2016 first-time All Star had a break out first half only to crater with “Howard-like” numbers in the second half.  In addition to a diminished slash , his strike out rate rose above 30%. The 30-year old rebounded from knee surgery to play a full season in 2016, however his normally above-average defense suffered.

MLB Trade Rumors has a good article describing some of the pros and cons regarding Saunders. I guess it’s good to see the Phillies front office follow through on their intention to sign or trade for a perceived need.  And this signing will probably make the Phillies a little better to watch at CBP and on TV.

However, I’m not fond of this signing.  (Note, opinion follows, not fact) An outfield of Howie Kendrick-Odubel Herrera-Saunders represents a roadblock to Roman Quinn and Nick Williams.  I would much rather see the prospects play on a team that will still likely fall short of a .500 record this season. And, while talk of flipping him at the trade deadline trade is nice, what possible prospect haul can we reasonably expect to garner for a player in which no other team was willing to add to their rosters when he would only cost them dollars.  Our cost is the delayed progression of our prospects.

But then again, maybe the Phillies have made up their minds already.  Maybe Saunders isn’t so much a roadblock to Quinn and Wiliams as he is a bridge to Dylan Cozens and Andrew Pullin.  Perhaps I’ve fallen into the trap of over-valuing our prospects.

50 thoughts on “Phillies to Sign Free Agent Michael Saunders

  1. Jim, agree with the thought of flipping him, bearing the fruits of nothing since anyone couldve signed him. I do remember roberto hernandez yielding jesmuel valentine, when anyone could have signed him.

      1. Have either Williams or Quinn earned a promotion to the big leagues yet? I say no. I’d rather see them both push a veteran out of a starting job (like Werth and Victorino did years ago) than hand both players a starting spot on the MLB club without the games or the numbers to justify it.

  2. Another sound acquisition requiring small commitment while providing more depth and flexibility. And there’s the real possibility he might turn out to be a piece for the future. If not, big deal.

  3. You say you’re “not fond of the trade” but the point is that it is not a trade but a modest signing. If either Saunders or Kendrick becomes trade-desirable at the deadline, then this move was a good one.

    I see the competition like this (with Quinn a switch hitter):

    Kendrick/Altherr/Quinn

    Saunders/Quinn

    With the Phils so short of good left handed hitting, Saunders is superfluous ONLY if 2 of Kendrick, Altherr and Quinn out-perform him. Even then for the salary, there is a case for him if he only earns 350 ab’s.

    Recently I came to think that the Phils might do better trading from their starting pitching depth for a young left handed cost-controlled outfielder such as David Dahl, Nick Franklin, Alex Dickerson, Scott Schebler or Max Kepler than signing a free agent like Saunders. With that said, I can’t hate this signing.

    1. Yes, I meant signing and corrected it. And I see the value of both the Saunders’ signing and the Kendrick trade. But I neither love them or hate either of them. My preference remains seeing what the younger players can do.

  4. I think the second half terrible numbers hurt him in FA. But, a good first half in 2017will bring teams willing to take a chance on him, and he only cost us $. He can also be used in a platoon situation if Altherr proves he can win a job. Or, if Quinn plays that well in ST, then Saunders can platoon with Howie Kendrick in LF. I don’t think there was any thought of Nick Williams earning a spot out of ST, so Saunders can still be used so as not to hurt a Roman Quinn development.

    1. I really don’t see any way the Phillies have a $19M platoon in left field of Kendrick and Saunders. I also don’t think Altherr figures in their plans as anything more than a back up at all three OF positions.

      As for Quinn, he needs to play everyday. The Saunders’ signing might mean Quinn will start the season in Lehigh Valley. The things they want him to improve on can’t be worked on from the bench or playing once/twice a week. But, if Quinn does win an OF spot in ST, maybe Tommy Joseph becomes vulnerable at first base? Where else would/could you play the player (Kendrick/Saunders) Quinn displaced in the outfield?

  5. Its way too early to project what his trade value might or might not be: if he has a first-half like he did last year, there’s value in that.

    And if he slumps out of the gate, maybe he’s reduced to a limited role all season long; freeing up time for the younger guys.

    My only dissatisfaction with the move is, I wish the left-handed bat we acquired could also play 1B. Who knows–maybe he’ll learn it in Spring Training. He’s played CF–he should be athletic enough for 1B. Having the option of a a left-handed bat to occasionally platoon with Joseph would be a plus.

    I’m fine with the move. Its only a one-year deal, and he has upside; as evidenced by his All-star first-half last year.

    Quinn has never played about AA, and Altherr didn’t exactly scream that’s he ready to be a MLB regular. Williams needs to straighten out whatever affected him last season at AAA and Cozens will need time at AAA also. I see no problem giving these kids more seasoning.

  6. So far, Klentak’s strategy is quantity over quality —- with 6 potential tradeable assets in Hellboy, Kendrick, Saunders, Buchholz, Neshak and Benoit acquired during the off season and committed about $60M for these 6 players. Can the Phils cash in future assets with their $60M investment??? Or Klentak becomes creative and package some of this veterans plus the young players in the 40-man and minors and acquire a legitimate stud that will anchor the team?

    1. KuKo…that collection will probably not return premier prospects, but maybe plenty of low A ball guys with potential. Personally, I hope he can get more international allocation money if trades are made..

    2. I would agree with that (quantity over quality) up until this offseason. I think he straddled the line this time.hes gotten a lot of guys, who have some value now for nothing more than money. And if these guys perform how they are projected to (mlb average), they will bring back something more than money in return.

      By grabbing 6 of these types of players, he stacked the odds. Hellickson, Saunders, and Buchholz are still quite young and could potentially have a few more years and some big dollars to play for. Kendrick, Benoit, and Neshek all want to get noticed and play for a last chance at a ring. Regardless, all 6 have pretty big incentives to go out and kick ass this year.

      If we improve the product in the field, perhaps continue to march towards .500, add quality veterans who can become assets, and not lose any major prospect all at the cost of 2 players having to spend 3 extra months in the minor leagues?? I’m totally fine with it. It’s not like Quinn and Williams are 25, 26 years old. They’re still young where this isn’t going to break them. And last I checked, neither one of them mastered triple-A just yet.

  7. I think you have to like the signing which was for $8M actually, not $9M, plus a $1M buyout. The Phillies bought themselves an asset, although they will now lose Luis Garcia or Sev from the 40. If the Phils eat money and trade Saunders with 20 homers in mid July, possible in our park after he works with his close friend Stairs, they will most definitely get a minor league prospect back. I also love Quinn but he needs AAA time plus he needs to show that he can last an entire season. Altherr will be a perfect platoon partner for him. With his knee, he’ll need some time off. Joseph on the other hand will be part of a 4 man every day infield. Blanco will fill in across the IF while Valentin holds the bench warm until JP comes up

    1. Murray I’ve been away for the holiday and laughed so hard yesterday when I saw they got Saunders for basically the one year.

      You sir are clairvoyant 🙂

      Not that I wanted him for multiple years I didn’t want multiple years to keep us from getting a legit LH bat. Nice Job Matt Klentak.

      1. I just saw this, thanks. Don’t worry, I’m also the guy who thought Asche could hit 320 some season.

    2. Aaron Altherr has not shown enough offensively to be considered a regular OF. He can be a defensive specialist/replacement in late innings. He is exciting to watch when he actually gets on base but has to be more consistent batting.

  8. I agree Quinn, Cozens never had a triple A atbat. So if they start in 3 A for a least half a season it might work out better. I like it better now there’s some comp in the OF. This team might make the 500 mark.

    1. a full season of experience in aaa for both these guys would be perfectly ok. if they both have strong seasons, they will be ready for a good shot at the big leagues in 2018. there’s no rush at this point. i don’t expect that the phillies will be in contention for the playoffs with or without them.

  9. I can’t say that I like this move. Saunders is slow, can’t play 1B, is a poor fielder in RF (more suited for LF), is oft-injured, and strikes out a ton. I think the FO should’ve waited longer to see if B.Moss would’ve signed a one year with an option. Logan Morrison, though he doesn’t have the power, might have been a better, cheaper option.

    1. With all that…he has been a cumulative 7.1bWAR player over the last 5 years. Have to see yet if you get the first half-2016 Saunders, or the second-half-2016 Saunders.
      And you are correct…he has never played first base, so looking to spell TJ may be more wishful thinking by some. Unless of course the Phillies try him there in ST.

    2. I think Pat Gillick was with Seattle when Saunders was drafted, could be he had some influence over this addition

  10. A lefty bat with power somewhere in the middle of the lineup for one season…!…good. My concern, other than his 2nd half of 2016, is about his injuries, recovery, and ability to play RF…where more athleticism is required than in LF….turning singles and some doubles into triples. I’d have to believe that the Phils have put him through strong physical medical checkups before signing him. If so, and he CAN play RF without problems, the OK….but that is a high bar to overcome. Good luck to him and us. His friendship with the hitting coach can’t hurt to keep him going after mid-season….and a defensive replacement when needed can be Altherr. The 2nd shoe has fallen….all clear til ST !!

  11. Wayne—Cozens is a candidate for lefty power on the club after he cuts those Ks down and gets more success vs. lefty pitcher. It would be great–perhaps the new hitting coach could help–to watch him do that. It would brighten the whole team’s outlook. Wishing him well !!!

  12. The Phils are not looking for a platoon for Joseph and they shouldn’t. We need to find out if Joseph is an everyday player while Hoskins is getting ready in AAA. Personally I think Hoskins’ bat is better but Joseph had stretches last year where he was really good. Competition is a beautiful thing and Kendrick, Saunders, Rupp, Galvis, Joseph, Hellickson will all be moved out of the way if deserving kids earn their shot. This will be a very fun season if LHV comes out of the gate on fire.

  13. Jim, I’m pretty confident that if one of the OF prospects has earned a promotion by Memorial Day they’ll get it , unless the team is a legitimate contender for a playoff spot AND both Kendrick and Saunders are playing well.

    The more likely scenario is the team is on pace for a 75 or so win season, and one of Kendrick or Saunders is playing fair to poor baseball. If that happens, we’ll see the hot prospect.

  14. If today were April 1, the following 13 position players should be going north:

    Catchers (2*)
    Cameron Rupp
    Andrew Knapp

    Infield (7)
    Andres Blanco (*also 3rd C)
    Jesmuel Valentin
    Cesar Hernandez
    Freddy Galvis
    Maikel Franco
    Tommy Joseph
    Brock Stassi (can also play LF)

    Outfield (4)
    Aaron Altherr
    Howie Kendrick
    Odubel Herrera
    Michael Saunders

    1. @8mark – i have the same line up with the exception of Stassi (who is not yet in the 40-man). Stassi needs to really explode come ST as he need to jump over a lot of really good prospects in the depth chart.

      If SevGon pitches bad, Phils might sign another UTIL type of player to complete the bench.

    2. I think Goeddel will once again occupy a 25 spot, this time thanks to his 40 spot. Stassi will be on the LHV roster as a back up

      1. @Murray – agree with this as I project Goedell to make the final BENCH spot unless SevGon and the other NRI were not impressive in the ST which will open a roster spot to sign FA.

        This will change if there’s a trade that will happen.

    3. Would you really bring Valentin up to sit on the bench? I think early on they might start like this

      Catchers (2*)
      Cameron Rupp
      Andrew Knapp

      Infield (6)
      Andres Blanco (*also 3rd C)
      Cesar Hernandez
      Freddy Galvis
      Maikel Franco
      Tommy Joseph
      Featherston 24th guy

      Outfield (5)
      Howie Kendrick
      Odubel Herrera
      Michael Saunders
      Quinn-Easily start him 3-4 nights a week in a platoon and get him on double switches for defense every game…
      Aaron Altherr

      1. Valentin will sit on the bench, with his 40 spot, until JP comes up which could be early in the season if he gets a good start. He could be up in June. He and Valentin would swap roster spots. I believe this was the plan when they decided to give Valentin a 40 spot. Klentak has a plan…. We’ll have 3 OF prospects fighting for call ups with two tradeable assets ahead of them. As soon as the prospects are ready, trades will be made to open spots. The same goes with starting pitching. Now we just need LHV to perform to its ability and come out of the gate smoking hot and we’ll all be fired up.

        1. Wow studying the 40 Man they really have a log jam of young players none of the position players would you want to try and slip through.

          Sounds like a trade or two should be made

  15. I think Roman Quinn gets priority over Howie Kendrick if Quinn is for real. I don’t think they were ever convinced Kendrick should be starting in LF. Kendrick in his prime barely hit enough to make him an option in LF. I like him in a role where he’s spelling several different starters once a week, but I don’t want to hand a position to him and I don’t think the Phils do either.

    I am really intrigued by a Quinn/Herrera/Saunders OF. There’s 10 win upside there.

    1. I like the Saunders trade. It gives them a lot of flexibility. Saunders had a really bad second half and still had a decent year – of the options available to the team he is the player with the greatest possible upside. If he’s good and another young player is ready to take the job, they can trade him mid year. If he does well and they want to keep him, they could have him for two to three years without even giving him a long term contract (second year is an option year and third year is his QO year). I don’t know if he plays first base, but don’t be surprised if you see him practicing at first in ST.

      As for Quinn, I think he starts the season in the minor leagues – he could use some time at AAA. If he’s healthy, he will be promoted at some point – how well he performs will determine when that occurs. Kendrick shouldn’t block him if he’s ready to play.

      The moves they made this offseason made the team better in the short run, did not tie their hands in any way moving forward, and gives them possible trade chips. I thought they did an excellent job this winter – the people running the team now are extremely sharp and value oriented. What a pleasant development.

    2. Pete Mack said in Mitch Rupert’s report that Quinn is going to AAA and the acquisition of Saunders buys him seasoning time.

      1. I saw that as well on Quinn and it disappointed me. Strange that he would make that determination so early on.

        I didn’t think it would be hard at all to get him plenty of playing time between left and right.

        That in and of itself triggers a move on Goeddel. They already cost him a year he should get this season to play everyday in AAA and show what he can do. His stock is way down and its not going to get any better burying him on the bench in CBP.

        1. I don’t think they are burying Quinn. I think they are being realistic in thinking that Quinn needs playing time in AAA. When he was promoted last year, he was not a finished player. I think regular AAA playing time will help Quinn.

          1. Your read it wrong Catch they would be burying Goeddel if they take him north. Quinn to AAA means he Williams and Cozens will play everyday.

            Perhaps they would drop Goeddel to AA I haven’t taken a hard look yet at what their OF is going to project to be. I imagine Tocci for starters…

            1. I would drop Goeddel to AA before I would promote Quinn or deprive Williams or Cozens of playing time. If Goeddel dominates for a month or two they can make another set of decisions at that time. Like many of the other guys, Goeddel needs at bats.

            2. And, no, I didn’t read it wrong, I just happened to use the same word you used but applied to a different player. You were upset/concerned about Quinn going to AAA, I am not; I think it’s the right move.

        2. DMAR….Goeddel would appear not to be treasured as one of their premier prospects going forward.
          So he will serve his purpose perhaps as the extra OFer.

          1. While true Romus it doesn’t make baseball sense. Both Kendrick and Saunders are average at best defensively and while both Atherr and Goeddel are better than average defensively neither of them can hit.

            As far as I’m concerned Quinn is the most ready prospect we’ve got. He’s a switch hitter none the less so he offers Pete incredible platoon advantages as well as defensive flexibility.

  16. Jim I agree with you 100%. A kid should be out there getting his feet wet . . . And the staying healthy argument holds zero weight (yes he needs to stay healthy) you don’t have to be in the minors to prove you can stay healthy and not for nothing Saunders has been hurt just as much as he’s played in his career.

  17. With Kendrick, Saunders, Neshak, Buchholtz, and such I do not see the Phillies having them block prospects. If it gets halfway thru season and 2 of the AAA outfielders are tearing up the league I feel Klentak would cut a player if there is absolutely no trade value. Same for rotation.

  18. Fansgraph’s Eric A Longenhagen on Gamboa:
    Erik …….Arquimedes Gambia seems to be considered a real prospect in Phillies circles, despite posting a wonderful .200/.250/.292 slash line at Williamsport this year. I get that he’s young and plays good defense, but is there anything there to project enough offensive growth to get him up to an average regular eventually? He seems to be starting from such a low level that he can’t be anything but a non-prospect.

    Eric A Longenhagen ..It’s a projectable body with a swing that looks amazing at 5 o’clock. If you think his in-game issues are strength driven and that his body will naturally solve that problem as it fills out, then yes you project heavily on that guy. And I’m not trying to be pedantic, but it’s Arquimedez, not Arquimedes. No rap name will ever be better than Arquimedez Gamboa.
    Or worse than Meek Mill

  19. The funniest part about this signing is this is exactly the type of guy RAJ would have signed the second day of free agency for 2 years, $24M, with a third year vesting option at $15M.

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