Late Monday night, reports started swirling that Jay Bruce was about to be traded to the Toronto Blue Jays. The rumored three-team deal would have sent Michael Saunders to the Los Angeles Angels and prospects back to the Cincinnati Reds. The Blue Jays were working towards trading a relatively cheap Michael Saunders for a rather expensive ($12.5 million) outfielder in Jay Bruce. The trade conceivably would have brought the Jays durability, seeing as Bruce has played in 137 games or more in his last five seasons, compared to Saunders who is just getting back from season-ending knee surgery that occurred after an injury suffered during spring training last year.
When word of the trade broke, Blue Jays fans were confused, afraid that the reason Toronto was getting Bruce was to replace Jose Bautista, who seems hell-bent on getting every last dollar in free agency. Some were overjoyed after seeing Bruce’s home-run totals. What was lost in all the commotion was Michael Saunders.
Michael Saunders is a Canadian-born product, who rooted for the Blue Jays his entire life and was finally getting a chance to wear Toronto blue. Alex Anthopoulos saw great potential in him when he was acquired for J.A. Happ and saw Saunders really tapping his high potential in hitter-friendly Rogers Centre. A former 11th-round pick of the Seattle Mariners, Saunders was always pegged to be a solid, above-average major-league player, and showed it through his minor-league career. In 550 minor-league games , Saunders posted a .277/.370/.441 slash line with 58 home runs, and 296 RBIs.
The talent is there with Saunders, just waiting to be tapped. Anthopoulos was a firm believer in him and felt he would be the left-fielder of the future in Toronto. After the trade Anthopoulos stated, “We think there’s upside with the bat, he’s already a pretty good offensive player and we love the fact that we can have that plus-defensive guy on the corner as well.” The Jays valued Saunders’ defense as well as his upside with the bat. They felt Saunders was the complete player to hold down left field, a versatile switch hitter, a threat on the bases, and great defender who would consistently put up solid at-bats for a lethal Blue Jays lineup.
After being traded to Toronto, Saunders could hardly contain his excitement of playing for his hometown team and wanted to be a part of this team more than anything and wanted to prove himself to the fans and the management who brought him here.
Bad luck landed him on the DL almost immediately, taking away his first season for the Jays and a long year of rehab. Saunders was finally healthy for the 2016 season and arrived at spring training full of excitement, ready to play ball. The trade rumors must have shattered Saunders who was finally looking forward to playing for the Blue Jays and had worked hard just for this day. He probably had a million things on his mind and didn’t know how to move on. His time with the Jays was full of bad luck and unfortunate circumstances and this was how it was going to end. Only nine short games into his Toronto career.
But finally luck was on his side, and on the side of everyone who believed Saunders would be a better option than Bruce, as there was a problem with one of the prospects’ medical history that would halt the trade talks.
Michael Saunders is still a Blue Jay, and rightfully so. He deserves a chance to prove himself and no one should count him out on having an absolutely monster year for Toronto. Finally getting to play for his childhood team will only give him an added edge. Saunders you belong in Toronto, we’re happy to have you and wouldn’t want anyone else to be starting in left field come Opening Day.