The Royals announced they have signed outfielder Michael Saunders to a minor league deal. The 31-year old left-handed hitter spent 73 games with the Phillies and Blue Jays last year, hitting .202/.256/.344 with six home runs. He has spent nine years in the big leagues, mostly with the Mariners, and has hit .232/.305/.397 in his career.
Saunders signed a minor league deal with the Pirates earlier in the week, but was released just two days later when the club acquired Corey Dickerson from the Rays. He was an All-Star in 2016 with the Blue Jays, hitting .253/.338/.478 with 24 home runs, but had a terrible second half, hitting just .178 after the break that year.
Michael Saunders' agent, Barry Meister, confirms Pirates released Saunders to give him the opportunity to sign elsewhere once "the opportunity changed".— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) February 23, 2018
Meister: "As per the agreement with PIT, when the opportunity changed, the Pirates and specifically Neal Huntington were gracious enough to allow Michael to seek another opportunity. They should be commended for their player-friendly, honest and transparent behavior."— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) February 23, 2018
Saunders has a solid 9.3% walk rate in his career, but has struck out over 25% of the time in his career. He has had solid power, but has always hit for a low average. He doesn’t have a big platoon split in his career, and actually had a reverse split last year. Saunders has played all three outfield positions, but hasn’t played significant time in center since 2014. His defense has been adequate, according to the metrics.
The Canadian-born Saunders should be in the mix for a reserve outfield spot, with potentially a starting job on the line.