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Amid swirling trade rumors, Michael Saunders changes agents

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Last week’s GM meetings came and went without a single transaction from the Mariners. And so too did did a surprisingly-active Monday morning, one that saw the Blue Jays add Russell Martin and the Cardinals trade for Jason Heyward. Well, I shouldn’t say the morning went without any transactions, as the Mariners did finalize their deal with Cuban lefty Misael Siverio.

Oh, and then in what might be bigger news, there was this little ditty as well:

This is all interesting because the last time we heard anything serious with regards to Michael Saunders, it was the week before last, from ESPN's Jerry Crasnick.

At the time, there was much debate around what exactly being "shopped hard" would entail, and if that came from someplace real or was simply interpreted from other events, but since Crasnick's original tweet there’s been nary a story on any serious talks between the Mariners and other clubs over the team's supposedly disgruntled outfielder.

Of course, this ongoing public feud began back in October with a series of bizarre comments from Jack Zduriencik during a year-end press conference and ensuing radio appearances, comments first highlighted here on this site. Zduriencik, at the time, called Saunders' off-season work into question and wondered aloud if some of his injuries might have been avoidable with certain preparation.

Saunders agent at the time, Michael McCann of Frye-McCann Sports, fired back at the organization in a piece published by Jason Churchill at CBS Seattle, and further elaborated in a lengthy story from Ryan Divish at the Seattle Times.

That was as public as it got, one side throwing jabs and the other punching right back. But from the start, it never seemed to fit. There were theories that it was all posturing in advance of arbitration hearings, but the level of animosity involved went beyond what most would normally expect—which is not much.

Still, it was difficult not to wonder if the initial comments on the organization’s end, which seemingly came out of nowhere, were public blowback over something that to that point had remained private. When the original piece first went public here, there were whispers at the time that there’d been an ongoing dialogue between McCann and the organization over Saunders' role.

This may well be normal, or it may have advanced to a place where certain individuals within the Mariners organization interpreted it as being told how they should be doing things—but whether it had an impact or not, Michael Saunders reached a point with his representation where the job that was being done was not being done to his satisfaction.

The job that was being done put things, where we last left off, at a point where Saunders' return seemed unlikely due the level of animosity and disagreement between the player's camp and the team. Does a change in representation necessarily mean a change in the tenor of the relationship between he and the Mariners? No, but it's not nothing either.

Way back when McCann's first comments went public, to Churchill, it was on the very same day MLB.com had some language directly from Saunders himself, saying that he wanted to be an everyday guy, and the initial comments from Zduriencik and McClendon (who said in the piece that Saunders' numbers were that of a starter, but that he just needed to stay healthy) were "motivation to work hard this offseason and come back even better next year."

It wasn't entirely surprising to see Saunders go light to MLB.com, but the dichotomy was jarring—and I wondered at the time what Saunders thought of how that'd look. It's entirely plausible Saunders told McCann to go to bat for him, though that'd be a bit of a poor choice as his own words would have the maximum effect, but, as I thought aloud the day following those comments from McCann, if this is the agent's strategy and he misplays it, he loses his best client.

In the end, whether it's because of the course of action he took over the last few months or not, McCann lost Saunders and is left with a base of clients that includes, among others, Yoervis Medina, Lucas Luetge and Brandon Maurer—so it isn't as if this organization won't have to work with an agency with which they've had some friction.

But the most interesting thing to watch is where this goes from here. The conversation and relationship between the Seattle Mariners and Michael Saunders has, for some time now, been in dire need of a reset. There's reason to hope that this is the ultimate "mea culpa" from Saunders on how the past few months have gone—the realization that it makes some level of sense to do everything he can to avoid a trade from a young contending team with burgeoning revenues that's desperately in need of decent-hitting outfielders.

Or, maybe Zduriencik and McClendon really do dislike Saunders for no reason at all and he's just looking for a guy who can get him out of town and into a definite starting role faster than McCann could. We don't know, and there's a chance this doesn't change anything.

But for a long time, this hasn't made any sense at all. Saunders not playing didn't make sense, the organization's comments didn't make sense, Saunders' agent playing a bold and risky strategy didn't make sense and then the scenario where he was (is?) likely to be traded from a team that needs outfielders didn't make sense. Maybe this does, maybe this is a piece that makes it all fit.

Either way, like I mentioned, this whole thing needed a reset—ideally one that didn't see the Mariners shipping off the best player at their weakest position. That hasn't happened yet, and it still could, but for the first time in a long time there's reason to hope—even if it's just conjecture—that the team may just hold on to one of its more talented players.