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Joe Saunders: An Interesting Case



By Mike Silva ~ October 19th, 2011. Filed under: Offseason Speculation.

Both local teams will be looking for pitching this offseason. While the Yankees will be playing in the deep end of the free agent pool with  CC Sabathia, if he opts out, and possibly with C.J. Wilson and Yu Darvish, the Mets will be looking for value. One name that could become available is D-Backs starter Joe Saunders, who MLBTR believes could be non-tendered.

Saunders is eligible for arbitration and made $5.5 million dollars last season when he went 12-13 with a 3.69 ERA. The D-Backs have a good number of young arms and may not want to pay Saunders the $7-$8 million he could command in arbitration.

The lefty has pitched in both leagues, as he was the centerpiece in the deal that sent Dan Haren to Anaheim. Historically, Saunders has been a back-end-of-the-rotation type where in that he gives you 200 innings and pitches to an ERA in the 4.00 to 4.50 range. He does seem to outperform his peripherals as he had a .648 winning percentage with the Angels, including 17 wins in 2008 and 16 wins in 2009. He is a guy that knows how to pitch, and can certainly find a way to win games despite having numbers in a vacuum that defy the notion. If non-tendered, could Saunders be an option for the Mets or Yanks?

Saunders has never fared well against the Yankees (6.28 ERA) so I would assume that would skew their perception of him. He would be a downgrade from the Wilson/Darvish options, but if they re-sign Sabathia and want to bring a veteran in that could provide them innings he might be a worthwhile look.  He seems to pitch well enough that he will suffice for a good team that scores runs. The Yankees qualify on both those counts.

However, he might be an even better fit for the Mets. One of their weaknesses last year was the bullpen, and Saunders could give them the innings that Chris Capuano was unable provide. With R.A. Dickey, presumably Mike Pelfrey, and Saunders they would have 3 starters that could give them 600 innings. This would allow them to nurse Johan Santana since he is coming off an injury, and make up for the times the streaky Jonathon Niese doesn’t go deep into games.

Would the Mets spend $5+ million on Saunders in the free agent market? It depends on if they think he is an upgrade over Dillon Gee. Like Saunders, Gee seems to find a way despite navigating tons of base runners. The difference is that Saunders has a history of winning, while Gee has just 193 big league innings. Gee also fell off significantly in the second half as he pitched to a 5.25 ERA.

I don’t think the Yankees would turn to Saunders since he pitches to contact and it appears he would fare better in the National League. As for the Mets, I think he might be worth considering on a 2-year deal. He would give them innings and double-digits in wins. Something that you can’t guarantee from young pitchers like Gee, Niese, or Schwinden.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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2 Responses to Joe Saunders: An Interesting Case

  1. joey

    “Saunders could give them the innings that Chris Capuano was unable provide. ”

    Weird comment. Capuano pitched 186 innings this year (3rd on the staff, 34th in the NL) in only 31 starts. Was that innings total really one of the Mets’ glaring weaknesses in 2011?

  2. tnt1528

    if the mets kept k-rod they probably finish at 500 or better,so i dont think the starting pitching was the problem(except for pelfreys games. dickey would have won 15-18 games if he was on another team…next yrs mets staff should be…santana,niese,dickey,gee plus????bullpen is parnell(but never as a closer),acosta,byrdak,fill in the rest and they need a closer,maybe re sign k-rod.

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