With the tight restrictions the team has on the payroll, the only acquisitions the Kansas City Royals can make are small ones. On Friday, the Royals signed outfielder Michael Saunders to a minor league deal.
With a team that is already full with outfielders, the acquisition of veteran outfielder Michael Saunder shows one of two things.
- This rebuild is open to anyone trying to make a roster.
- The Royals have doubts about some of the in-house options.
As it sits, the Royals have Alex Gordon, Paulo Orlando, Jorge Bonifacio, Jorge Soler, Billy Burns, Tyler Collins, Bubba Starling, Adalberto (Raul) Mondesi, Whit Merrifield, Terrance Gore, and now Saunders as potential outfield options for the 2018 Royals.
When you look at that list it does not give you all the feelings the previous outfield did. In fact, the only feeling it gives you is an “oh no” feeling. Saunders career .232/.305/.397 slash seems to affirm that feeling too.
However, it does seem that the Royals have a game plan for Saunders.
He also provides something that the Royals have very little of.
As of right now, only two of the outfield options are primarily left-hand hitters, Gordon and Collins, while Burns and Mondesi (most likely an infielder) can switch-hit. The Royals need additional left-hand hitters, therefore Saunders provides some variety.
Let’s take a look at what Saunders has done thus far.
Introducing Michael Saunders
The 31-year-old veteran made his MLB debut in 2009 with the Seattle Mariners. Over his career, Saunders has experienced a lot of ups and downs. He has spent a significant amount of time bouncing between the minor leagues and the major leagues.
Up until 2014, Saunders never finished a season with a batting average above .250 while hitting a career-high 19 homeruns in 2012.
Due to his solid performance in 2014, hitting .273/.341/.450 in just 73 games, the Mariners traded him to the Toronto Blue Jays. Unfortunately for Saunders, he tore his left meniscus in February of 2015 and spent nearly the entire season on either the 15-Day DL or 60-Day DL.
The upside of Michael Saunders
2016 was the year that surprised everyone. A strong first half, hitting .298/.372/.551 and 16 homeruns earned him a spot in the 2016 All-Star game. The second half of the year was a different story though. He ended up finish the year hitting .178/.282/.357 and eight homeruns. This could be due to fatigue since he was injured nearly all of 2015.
He finished the 2016 season hitting .253/.338/.478 and a solid 24 homeruns and 32 doubles. By far the best offensive season Saunders has put together in his professional career.
After becoming a free agent, Saunders turned his 2016 season into a one year, $9 million contract, with an $11 million option in 2018, with the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies were hoping to get 2016 first half Saunders but unfortunately did not.
Due to the slow start, Saunders found himself getting released by the Phillies in June. He then re-signed and finished the season with the Toronto Blue Jays. But that is where he ended with Toronto, after finishing the year with a .202/.256/.344 slash and just 17 extra base hits over 73 games.
Saunders signed a minor league deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates this off-season, however after the Pirates acquired outfielder Corey Dickerson from the Tampa Bay Rays, Saunders requested the team release him. The Pirates granted him his request, even though he had already been practicing with the Pirates at Spring Training.
All of this leads us to where we are now. On Friday, the Royals signed Saunders to a minor league deal. When looking at Saunders on the outside, it does not look like more than test trial. The Royals are probably hoping that the one-time All-Star can recreate his 2016 first half, knowing they potentially need another lefty in the lineup.
The fact that he has over 250 games of experience in the center field is also an intriguing factor to keep in mind. He has a .992 fielding percentage and has only committed five errors over 2,162 innings. He also has 614 putouts out of 627 chances. Not too bad.
The Royals originally had four candidates for center field, Starling, Gordon, Orlando, and Burns, and neither are exciting picks. Perhaps Saunders could be that guy.
Time will tell though.
What do you think Royals fans? What does the Saunders contract mean to you? Could we see Saunders roaming the outfield come March? Let us know your thoughts!