Jul 8, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners right fielder Michael Saunders (55) hits a single against the Minnesota Twins during the third inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
Even though he has been a productive bat in an era when offensive production is hard to find, outfielder Michael Saunders is a prime trade candidate for the Seattle Mariners this off-season. In their own search for hitting help, the Cincinnati Reds almost surely have Saunders on their radar, so let’s take a look at how he might fit on the Riverfront.
Why He May Be Available
As described in the MLBTraderRumors.com article linked above, Saunders is in the midst of a spat with Mariners’ GM Jack Zduriencik. At the heart of the matter is Saunders propensity for missing playing time due to injury, which Zduriencik has implied is due to a lack of off-season conditioning and commitment. It seems to be an uncomfortable situation that would be best resolved by moving Saunders to another team.
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Why He Fits for the Reds
The Reds were terrible in left field in 2014 and worse at the bat, so they need an upgrade in both areas. Saunders has spent most of his recent playing time in right field, but has logged more the 1000 innings in left during his Major League career. More importantly, he has pop in his bat that the Reds have been missing in left, especially last season.
In just 78 games in 2014, Saunders hit eight home runs with 34 RBI and slashed .273/.341/.450, and his career slash line is .231/.301/.384 is weighed down by struggles in his early years.
When healthy, Saunders is also an excellent base runner, having swiped 21 bags against just four times being caught in 2012.
Finally, Saunders is cheap: he made just $2.3 million last year, and his arbitration case doesn’t look especially strong given his lack of playing time. He’s also under team control for two more seasons.
Why He Might NOT Fit for the Reds
That “when healthy” tag can be the kiss of death, and it seems to be always present with Saunders. Whether, as Zduriencik maintains, the problem is with preparation, or whether he’s just fragile or unlucky, has played in just 553 games over a six-year career. That could be a big problem for a Reds team that was wrecked by injuries in 2014.
Saunders also struggles to make contact, striking out 59 times in 263 plate appearances last season, and topping 100 Ks in each of the two years before that.
If the Mariners just want to get something in exchange for Saunders rather than releasing him outright, then it would make sense for the Reds to take a flyer. They have a host of pitching prospects who might interest the Mariners, so there could be a fit.
If, on the other hand, the M’s are looking for a big score, then the Reds will (or should) pass.