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Royals Offseason Target: Michael Saunders

The once promosing Mariner seems to be on the market

Otto Greule Jr

Jerry Crasnick has reported that the Mariners are open to moving Michael Saunders. Michael Saunders is an outfielder. The Royals need another outfielder. This is a great pairing for anybody who wants to write an article about the subject. So let's do that.

Saunders was an 11th round pick out of Canada (sad trombone) in 2004, a draft that saw the Mariners pick-less for the first two rounds. He was a hockey player in high school and didn't focus solely on baseball until being drafted. He showed a good approach in the minors along side power and speed, but also had contact issues which led to higher than average k-rates. The over the wall power never fully manifested in the minors but his line drive swing, power and speed helped him put up some high slugging rates...when he was making contact. His power/speed combo with a mix of success was good enough for him to find some time on some Top-100 lists, ranking as high as 30th overall.

Year BA BP
2009 65 75
2010 30 62

Saunders has dealt with injuries and inconsistency for all of his MLB career.

Date On Date Off Transaction Days Games Side Body Part Injury Severity Surgery Date
7/11/2014 9/8/2014 15-DL 59 50 Left Abdomen Strain Oblique -
6/11/2014 6/27/2014 15-DL 16 15 Right Shoulder Inflammation A/C Joint -
6/7/2014 6/10/2014 DTD 3 3 Right Shoulder Soreness -
5/11/2014 5/11/2014 DTD 0 0 Right Knee Hyperextension -
8/31/2013 9/1/2013 DTD 1 1 Right Thigh Tightness Hamstring -
8/24/2013 8/27/2013 DTD 3 3 - Neck Stiffness -
6/30/2013 7/3/2013 DTD 3 2 Right Fingers Laceration Middle Finger -
4/11/2013 4/29/2013 15-DL 18 17 Right Shoulder Sprain -
9/1/2012 9/7/2012 DTD 6 5 Right Groin Strain -
8/25/2012 8/31/2012 DTD 6 6 Right Groin Soreness -
8/3/2012 8/4/2012 DTD 1 1 - Soreness -
6/29/2012 7/3/2012 DTD 4 4 - General Medical Illness -
1/6/2011 1/6/2011 Off 0 0 Abdomen Surgery Appendix 1/6/2011
8/22/2010 8/30/2010 DTD 8 7 Right Shoulder Contusion Rotator Cuff -
8/17/2010 8/21/2010 DTD 4 3 Right Shoulder Soreness -
8/6/2010 8/9/2010 DTD 3 3 Neck Stiffness Crashed Into Wall -
7/17/2010 7/22/2010 DTD 5 5 Right Fingers Sprain Middle Finger -
10/28/2009 10/30/2009 WIN 2 0 Ankle Sprain -
8/15/2009 8/19/2009 DTD 4 3 Left Shoulder Soreness -
6/30/2009 7/9/2009 Minors 9 0 Right Thigh Strain Hamstring -
4/7/2009 4/20/2009 Minors 13 0 Right Shoulder Recovery From Surgery Labrum 8/28/2008
8/28/2008 9/5/2008 Minors 8 0 Right Shoulder Surgery Labrum 8/28/2008
8/27/2007 9/5/2007 Minors 9 0 - Head Contusion Skull -

Year PA wRC+ WAR
2009 129 42 -0.3
2010 327 87 0.4
2011 179 19 -0.5
2012 553 108 2.1
2013 468 100 1.3
2014 263 126 1.9

Recently Saunders has been better and has supplied surplus value given his two years under the league minimum and a modest $2.3M salary in 2014 in his first round of arbitration.

This winter will be his second trip through the arbitration process and MLB Trade Rumors predicts a small $600K raise for the 27 year old for a $2.9M 2015 salary.

Steamer likes Saunders, if he can stay on the field, and believes that he could be a slightly above average player if he received nearly a full season of games and could produce a line such as:

G PA HR SB BB% K% Triple Slash wRC+ FLD WAR
138 580 16 12 10.4% 22.9% .244/.324/.405 110 2.3 2.4

A 110 wRC+ isn't really flashy. It's above league average and for a right fielder is essentially an average batting line. His average glove and average baserunning  also isn't flashy but there's a lot of value in simply just not being bad at something.

Saunders 2013

2014 Saunders

Those are his zone 11, 12, 13, and 14 (near or outside of the strike zone) swing heat maps (regardless of the outcome) for 2013 then 2014. He's been more aggressive on pitches up in the zone while still maintaining his normal swing rates for pitches away (he's a left handed hitter) and has made slightly made better contact rates on them.

Saunders made strides this year in the contact department as he cut down 1% on his O-Swing%, increased his O-Contact% by 3%, and jumped his overall Contact% 4%.

He actually creates a very high above league average run value per 100 pitches on pitches away from him out of the zone, but on the middle-away pitch is where he struggles and as seen above, he chases there.

Saunders doesn't necessarily show a large platoon split, but last season he had a 100 wRC+ against left handed pitchers and a 135 wRC+ against righties. That's a 35% difference between the two, but both are positive splits.

The Mariners seem set on trading him and the asking price isn't likely to be very high, but he's an intriguing figure. He not necessarily young at age 27, but he's not old either. He's theoretically at the point in his career where he should be peaking or has already peaked and last year he posted the best offensive season of his career. He also offers his club two more years of control at reasonable prices. He's not likely to make more than $5M or $6M in his final year of arbitration (unless he puts up an excellent season)  and If he maintains a two-win value then he could provide $8M+ a year in surplus value.

I don't think he's able to be had for a small package like say Jason Adam for Josh Willingham, but I can't see a team giving up a Top-5 prospect for him given his injury history and peripheral numbers.