Phillies Add Lefty Bat in Outfielder Michael Saunders
The Phillies first showed their hand on adding a left-handed bat on 97.3 ESPN. Phillies assistant general manager Scott Proefrock joined the Sports Bash with Mike Gill back in December and indicated the Phillies were looking for a left-handed bat who could play some corner outfield and some first base. While not a first baseman, the Phillies have agreed to terms with outfielder Michael Saunders, according to a report by Jon Morosi of Fox Sports and confirmed by Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly.
Salisbury notes that the deal is awaiting a medical review. Terms of the deal are also unknown at this time, though the Phillies are likely making a short-term signing to make way for Phillies outfield prospects.
Saunders comes to the Phillies after two seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays. Saunders was a 2016 American League All-Star, but it was a tale of two seasons for Saunders in 2016. Prior to the All-Star break, Saunders batted .298 with 16 home runs and 42 runs batted in. After the break, Saunders hit just .178, hitting only eight more home runs and driving in 15. Saunders put forth a .923 OPS the first half and a .639 OPS the second half.
As to where in the field Saunders will play, that remains unclear. Upon acquiring Howie Kendrick in trade, the Phillies announced that Kendrick would start in left field. Saunders has experience playing all three positions, but left field has become his primary position after starting his career in center field. Of Kendrick and Saunders, Saunders may be the better defensive option in right field.
The move means that either Aaron Altherr or Roman Quinn could begin the season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, perhaps alongside Tyler Goeddel. This makes a crowded outfield at Triple-A with the likes of Nick Williams and Dylan Cozens looking for playing time. The Phillies could use Altherr as a right-handed bat in platoon with Saunders in right field while the others head to Triple-A.
As it stands, the Phillies Opening Day lineup may look something like this:
- Cesar Hernandez, 2B (S)
- Howie Kendrick, LF (R)
- Odubel Herrera, CF (L)
- Maikel Franco, 3B (R)
- Michael Saunders, RF (L)
- Tommy Joseph, 1B (R)
- Cameron Rupp, C (R)
- Freddy Galvis, SS (S)
The move also means that Tommy Joseph is the only first baseman on the roster. That could bode well for utility player Daniel Nava. who is a switch-hitter that plays multiple positions. Nava is a non-roster invitee to camp, but he will have to show a strong Spring, since he likely will displace someone on the Phillies 40-man roster.
Speaking of the 40-man roster, the Phillies will have to cut a player to add Saunders. Pitchers Luis Garcia and Severino Gonzalez could be the next to go. Tyler Goeddel survived the full season as a Rule 5 player, but the Phililes could attempt to slip him through waivers if they feel they have enough outfield depth.
In seven seasons between the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays, Saunders is a lifetime .235 hitter with a .711 OPS.