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Seattle Mariners trade candidate: Joe Saunders

Joe Saunders is boring but some people eat Grape-Nuts every day and like it.

Scott Halleran

It's July and the Mariners are out of contention, which means it's time to start thinking about who will be traded. Since the Mariners are full of expiring contracts, there is a high probability that more than one of these players will be dealt as the July 31st deadline approaches. We'll be taking a look at these trade candidates throughout the month of July.

This is the last one.

It's actually borderline painful to write this one, and I don't even care for Joe Saunders' skillset in the least. The Mariners are in the middle of a win streak, and Saunders has been pitching well. Still, the stupid reality looms that the Mariners are unlikely contenders despite this streak, and Saunders is a name that continues to get floated around in trade rumors for teams looking to solidify the back of the rotation. There are other Mariners that could be traded in the next nine days, but Saunders is the most likely candidate (hey, that's the name of the show!) that hasn't already been covered. So here it is.

Why he's attractive

  • Joe Saunders has all of the markings of an attractive trade target, despite not being particularly...good. There's a reason he waited all offseason and still ended up with $6.5 million from the Mariners. He's durable, having only missed a handful of starts over the last six seasons.
  • He's reliable. Even though he started the year to poor results, his recent string of success has him right back to where he always has been. You know exactly what you get with Joe Saunders. Low four ERA, ~1.5 to ~2.5 WAR, about 200 innings. That's exactly what Saunders is on track to do again, as his season numbers look remarkably similar to his career line. Consistency has value at the deadline, even if it isn't spectacular. Teams like to know exactly what they're going to get. There's no mystery with Joe Saunders.

2013 5.03 2.70 1.05 4.28 4.40 4.21
Career 5.12 2.74 1.12 4.16 4.55 4.46

  • As a result of his consistency (and expiring contract), Saunders presents very little risk. His contract carries the rarely-exercised 2014 mutual option, and he's only owed close to $3 million for the rest of the season. Despite not being what would be referred to as an impact starter, he does provide cheap stability for a team with holes in the back of the rotation. He's a decent fallback option for a team that misses on Matt Garza, Jake Peavy, or Ervin Santana.
  • He's hot. Whether it makes sense or not, Saunders had a 3.68 ERA in June and has a 1.73 ERA in July. While a quick glance at his career line may indicate this is simply a return to normal and not a path he'll continue on, teams don't always act rationally when it comes to the trade deadline. There's a chance somebody could overpay.

Why he's not

  • He's Joe Saunders. This isn't a pitcher most teams visualize starting a playoff game for them, at least in an ideal scenario. Unless a team is rolling out pitchers in their rotation below replacement level, he probably represents a single win upgrade over the rest of the year. Otherwise, there isn't much to like, as long as the price is right.

Possible interested teams

  • Too many to name. The starting pitching market is always active, and there are numerous teams with holes in their rotation. Saunders may be especially attractive to a team on the fence about being buyers, as his cost would be low and he'd provide stability.

Why a trade will happen

  • Joe Saunders probably won't be around next year. It's possible the Mariners could work something out again, but Saunders had to settle for a one-year deal this time around and will likely search for it again. The Mariners are still out of contention and have a chance to get something in return for what will likely be nothing in the future. Same old story.

Why it won't

  • The Mariners lack depth in their starting rotation, and will need pitchers to fill some innings in September in case they choose to be cautious with some of their young pitching. If Erasmo Ramirez gets hurt again or Aaron Harang goes missing in one way or another, things get real thin, real fast. It doesn't do anybody any good to watch Blake Beavan and Hector Noesi start games through August and September, and that's who the Mariners are essentially left with.
  • The Mariners don't exactly seem motivated to be sellers. This comment came down from Eric Wedge over the weekend, where he didn't seem to think the Mariners would be particularly active. Whether the Mariners are posturing or not, they are still words that were spoken. Use your own discretion.
  • "Jack and I have already talked about this," Wedge said. "Unless it's something that raises the bar, I don't think we're going to do anything. We're not going to move somebody just to move somebody.

    "Unless it's something we feel like, again, it raises the bar -- which depending on the team and their situation, it can happen; you don't ever count on that happening. If not, we stand pat. We've got a good group of guys out there. It's fun to watch them come to the ballpark every day right now."

Below is an unexciting poll about an unexciting player and I'm sorry.

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