Joe Saunders is finally off the table, so there really aren’t many impact players remaining on the free agent market (I’m looking at you, Michael Bourn and Kyle Lohse!). Saunders was reportedly seeking a longer deal, but wound up taking a one-year pact with the Mariners worth $7 million. There are also apparently incentives included in the deal that could boost Saunders’ 2013 earnings even higher, and for the pitcher’s sake we’re hoping none of those incentives have to do with striking anyone out. That shit’s just not going to happen.
We certainly aren’t ardent Joe Saunders fans around these parts, but that doesn’t mean this deal isn’t a solid one for Seattle. Saunders is the kind of pitcher that’s simply difficult to enjoy if you’re a statistically-minded fan; he owns a career K-rate just barely north of 5.0/9, he constantly outperforms his indicative stats (FIP, xFIP), and the high win totals he’s posted a couple of times make him seem much better than he really is to John Kruk or Harold Reynolds or whoever just got fired from some other baseball job. Saunders finished up 2012 with a 4.07 ERA, 5.77 K/9 rate, 2.01 BB/9 rate, and 4.08 FIP in 174 2/3 IP with the Diamondbacks and shocking Orioles.
If Saunders merely replicates his 2012 performance, he’ll get a good get for a Mariners team that needs all the help it can acquire. Pitching at Safeco Field half the time should ensure Saunders can use his pitch-to-contact mantra to garner better results, so he’s a relatively good bet to make good on his one-year deal and cash in elsewhere after the 2013 season. Now 31, it’s difficult to see how much longer Saunders can be relatively effective in the middle or back-end of someone’s rotation, but the short-term nature of this new deal works well for a Mariners team trying to climb back into relevance in a division where every other team has made great strides in recent years. Well, not the Astros. It may take me a while to remember or care that the Astros are now in the AL West, especially when it means our beloved Cardinals don’t get to beat them to death as often each summer.