As the Hot Stove heats up, the Blue Jays continue to make moves.
In yet another string of moves, Toronto has acquired outfielder Michael Saunders from Seattle for starting pitcher J.A. Happ.
Saunders, 28, according to ESPN’s Jayson Stark, had been miffed by comments made by Mariners’ general manager Jeff Zduriencik during this past season. Saunders had fought through injury in 2014, playing in only 78 games, batting .273 with 8 HR’s and 34 RBI’s. Saunders hails from British Columbia, making the move a nice homecoming for someone in need of a change of scenery. Saunders is under club control until 2017, and is expected to replace Melky Cabrera in left field.
Happ, 32, started 28 games for the Jays last season, going 11-11 with a 4.22 ERA. Happ provides rotation depth for the Mariners, who are looking to possibly deal talented pitching prospects Taijuan Walker or James Paxton for another power bat. The journeyman pitcher is due $6.7 million in 2015.
I think this is yet another move for Seattle, as they look to trade Walker or Paxton for the likes of Justin Upton. Markakis being signed by the Braves today too adds more fuel to that fire.
Saunders needed a change of scenery, and barring more injuries, will have a chance to play every day. Makes sense for both sides.
Moving Saunders was inevitable for the club after both manager Lloyd McClendon and GM Jack Zduriencik voiced their concerns over the outfielder’s durability and conditioning. Saunders also recently switched his agent, which should have been a tell-tale sign that his days in Seattle were numbered.
The Mariners also lacked back-end rotational depth down the stretch last season, even with the top pitching in the league. On paper, this trade should make sense. Though, many M’s fans will probably be disappointed with the return they just got for Saunders.
When healthy Saunders has been solid in multiple assets. He is fast, he can play the outfield with poise, and knows how to swing a decent bat. His only problem has been staying healthy. If he had played a whole season in 2014, he probably would have put up career highs in all offensive categories.
I understand the reluctance in investing in an injury-prone player, but packaged nicely with another young pitcher or positional player (even one not named Walker or Paxton) probably could have netted a better deal for Seattle. For now though, it seems Zduriencik just wanted the Saunders-issue out of sight and out of mind.
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The Blue Jays continue adding to their offense, first acquiring Josh Donaldson last week and now Saunders today to play a starting role in the lineup. But what the Jays have yet to do is fill the club’s biggest weakness over nearly the past decade: starting pitching. Happ is at best a back-end-of-the-rotation guy, and certainly worth Saunders. Now the Blue Jays really need to flex the financial muscles they pretend (or is it pretend!) to have and sign a top-end starting pitcher.
This is a change of scenery trade for Saunders. If he can stay healthy, he should be able to put up respectable numbers for the Blue Jays and patrol left field everyday.
For the Mariners, this move seems like a precursor to another move. As everyone said above, Happ is a back end starting pitcher. The Mariners now have the ability to trade Taijuan Walker or James Paxton. Also today, the Braves signed Nick Markakis, which seems to indicate that Justin Upton will be traded shortly. Could a Taijuan Walker for Justin Upton trade be coming?