We've known for a while that the Seattle Mariners really needed at least one other starting pitcher. We've known for a while that the Seattle Mariners were getting linked in rumors to free-agent starter Joe Saunders. On paper, it was a fit, but I was less than enthused, for two reasons:
- oh my god boring
- Saunders reportedly wanted a three-year contract
Well you can forget about number two. I mean, maybe Saunders did want a three-year contract, but he isn't signing a three-year contract -- instead, according to reports, he's signing a one-year contract, with our very own Seattle Mariners. Bullet hole number one still applies, but a one-year contract is a heck of a deal. Even without knowing what the one-year contract is actually worth.
I remember reading a week or two ago about how the Twins had an offer out to Joe Saunders, and they were waiting to hear back. I doubt the Mariners blew away the Twins' offer, so it's possible Saunders just prefers Seattle over Minnesota and wherever else might've been expressing interest in his services. It's nice to feel wanted. Even if you only feel wanted based on suspicions and relative to the Twins, who project to be absolutely dreadful.
I'm going to assume that Saunders will be guaranteed a modest sum of money. In a year, or less than that, he'll leave, unless he's successful enough to bring back. The immediate consequence is we no longer have to look at a starting rotation depth chart with Hector Noesi in or near the top five. Now -- assuming Saunders is happening -- we have this:
The immediate benefit is a better rotation. A side benefit might be Saunders' major-league experience rubbing off on others. And because this is just one guy, and because the commitment is so small, no one's been blocked. If one or some of the prospects take steps forward, room can be made. The assumption right now has to be that the prospects require more seasoning, necessitating a non-Noesi import. This is a contract that might have as much to do with other players as it has to do with the player signing the contract.
Now, ordinarily, when I'm writing about a player, I have tabs open to his Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs pages. I have neither tab open right now for Joe Saunders, and I am writing this entire post without consulting or confirming a single statistic. Some might consider this irresponsible; I consider this impressively efficient. Who have the Mariners gotten in Joe Saunders? Saunders is a left-handed starter who's probably...30 or 31 or 32 years old. You might remember him for being one of them annoying Angels, before he disappeared by playing for the Diamondbacks. I don't think there was a team in the middle, and Saunders ended last season with the Orioles, having a hand in their defeat of the Rangers in the Wild Card playoff.
Saunders doesn't throw a whole lot of strikes, nor does he miss a whole lot of bats, nor does he generate a whole lot of grounders. The only thing Joe Saunders does exceptionally well is be Joe Saunders, which he does like a motherfucker. The whole package is non-literally unremarkable, and Saunders does enough things just well enough to keep from being embarrassing. He's comfortable as a #4 and from time to time he can look like a true #3. As I recall he's much better against lefties than righties, so he'll have his platoon issues. He's essentially replacing Jason Vargas, and Vargas could pitch to righties because he had that changeup. Saunders doesn't have that sort of weapon, so righty-loading a lineup can expose him.
I didn't think Joe Saunders would be available for a one-year contract, but maybe he likes playing on the West Coast, and maybe he likes the idea of pitching in Safeco, even if it's going to be a new, adjusted Safeco. It probably won't be bad for his career, and soon he can go right back on the market. He's probably not about to pitch the 2013 Seattle Mariners into the playoffs, but as a guy who looks nothing at all like Hector Noesi, I'm happy to have him for the time being. Saunders is dull, and dull is less fun than exciting, but Noesi is the wrong kind of exciting, so, if I may:
exciting > dull > Noesi-exciting
Please welcome the newest Seattle Mariner we're never really going to want to talk about. Here comes Joe Saunders, professional baseball pitcher. He'll be okay.