Thursday, February 7, 2013

Joe Saunders signs with Seattle Mariners; Twins cancel World Series parade

Joe Saunders has signed with the Seattle Mariners.  I repeat, Joe Saunders has signed.  We may now resume our normal lives.  We can return to our families and jobs.  The Twins missed out on Saunders and will likely enter the 2013 season with a starting rotation of Kevin Correia, Scott Diamond, Vance Worley, Mike Pelfrey and either Liam Hendriks or Rich Harden.  Saunders would have been a nice stop-gap starter for the Twins in 2013, but wasn't going to do anything to turn the team's fortunes around.  I wrote in great detail about how Joe Saunders doesn't really mean much to the Twins and that regardless of who the Twins signed, the rotation is better (but not good, make no mistake). 

The Twins off-season started with promise and hope.  There was money to spend and plenty of pitching available.  I outlined some pitchers that the Twins might look to sign.  I pegged Joe Saunders as a player I thought the Twins would sign.  I put him in a group with Jeremy Guthrie and Joe Blanton.  Guthrie and Blanton got better deals than I thought they would.  I haven't seen the numbers on Saunders yet, but it is reportedly a one-year deal, so the money doesn't really mean much to me.

In fact, I would not have been upset had the Twins signed Saunders for one year and as much as $8-10 million.  He would have been overpaid, but only for a year at the most.  He might have been the Twins' best pitcher, and would have been Harden/Hendriks/Pelfrey insurance.   In addition, Saunders has "Twins pitcher" written all over him.  He doesn't throw hard, he puts the ball in play, limits walks and doesn't strike out many.  His peripheral stats are nothing to write home about, but he usually gets about league-average results.  Going by ERA+, Saunders has posted the following numbers over the past three seasons:  100, 107, 103.  As I said, right around league-average.  League-average is quite an upgrade here in Minnesota. 

It seems that the Twins had their one-year offer rebuffed.  Seattle may have offered more money, or a better opportunity.  Maybe Saunders just prefers Seattle to Minneapolis, as crazy as that may seem!  Whatever the reason, Saunders is not coming to Minnesota.  In a way, it doesn't change much for the Twins.  They are probably finishing in last place with or without Saunders.  I guess Saunders could have been a potential trade chip come July or August, had he continued to pitch as he has over the past three seasons.  Or maybe not.  Last season he was traded around the deadline for Matt Lindstrom, who is basically a journeyman reliever.  Things change, but guys like Joe Saunders typically do not net exciting prospects.  

The Twins are likely done making significant moves.  Odds are, the next big move the Twins make will be in June when they pick 4th in the upcoming amateur draft.  They have been making minor league moves here and there, but those are mostly meant to supplement the AAA roster.  They will enter the 2013 season with a lineup that has a lot of holes, pretty poor starting pitching but some promising young talent on the horizon.  Savvy trades have made this a successful off-season, but free agency has not been kind here in Minnesota.  

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