Michael Saunders has reportedly reached an agreement with the Philadelphia Phillies, according to Jim Salisbury of Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia. MLB Network’s Jon Morosi first reported that the sides were nearing an agreement. The deal is reportedly worth $9 million for the first season, with an an $11 million option for the 2018 season, potentially topping out at $14 million, according to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.
Saunders, 30, put forth a breakout season in 2016, hitting .253/.338/.478 with 24 home runs and 57 RBIs over the course of 558 plate appearances. His performance earned him an All-Star bid, the first of his career. Holding a career .235 average, Saunders won’t turn heads with an average nearing .300. However, 75 career round-trippers show that Saunders is capable of providing the Phillies with some much-needed power.
The Victoria, British Columbia, native has been linked to a possible signing with the Phillies frequently this offseason, but nothing had materialized until now. Philadelphia has been said to be seeking a left-handed outfield bat to add some balance to their right-handed dominated lineup. Specifically, the only two names that ever surfaced were Saunders and his former Toronto Blue Jays teammate Jose Bautista — although Bautista was never associated directly with the Phils.
For the Phillies, this move makes sense on a number of levels. They’re adding a veteran presence to their lineup, one that is not only young enough to stick around if he produces, but could also serve as a trade-chip when the deadline rolls around in August. Saunders also provides the Phils with the depth they need, not forcing their hand by unnecessarily promoting an unprepared player such as Roman Quinn or Nick Williams.
This signing likely signifies the end of a surprisingly eventful offseason for the rebuilding Phillies. Kicking off the winter by acquiring veteran reliever Pat Neshek, the Phillies also added Joaquin Benoit, Howie Kendrick, and Clay Buchholz.
After finishing 2016 at 71-91, the theme of the offseason seemed to be focused on adding veterans, to emphasize that they will not rush prospects up to the major-leagues. Their signing of Saunders is just the latest in a line of moves that add credence to that belief.