Bay a surprising target for Mariners

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Jack Zduriencik has emphasized defense time and time again since taking the helm in Seattle. He acquired Franklin Gutierrez to play center, picked up and then re-signed Jack Wilson for shortstop and he traded for Endy Chavez, Jack Hannahan and Ryan Langerhans to occupy lesser roles. All are players who have been rated very favorably by defensive statistics over the last year. He’s also exiled Yuniesky Betancourt and shopped Jose Lopez, two players not treated so kindly by the numbers.
That’s why the news that the Mariners are in hot pursuit of free agent Jason Bay came as something of a shock. Bay is one of the game’s worst defensive outfielders, according to UZR. He’s finished 10 runs below average each of the last three years, coming in at -40.8 runs in all.
Now, left field in Fenway Park is definitely a touchy area for defensive systems, given the presence of the Green Monster and the lack of ground that needs to be covered. But Bay was rated as being -25.8 runs below average during his final 1 2/3 seasons in Pittsburgh. He was average before that, but knee problems have taken a toll on his speed, and there’s considerably more ground to cover in Safeco, even accounting for the fact that Gutierrez will be of a lot of help getting to balls in left-center.
It’s not to say Bay wouldn’t be an asset. His 900 OPS has far more than made up for his defensive shortcomings these last couple of years. But he probably wouldn’t to post the same kind of line while playing half of his games in Safeco, a very difficult ballpark for right-handed power hitters, and by the time he’s in the second half of his likely four- or five-year deal, he may well be nothing more than an average regular.
In truth, he’s probably worth more to the Red Sox, given the small left field, than he would be to any other team. The Mariners could sign him with the idea of making him a first baseman or DH in a year or two. They’ll get the middle-of-the-order bat they need and become more of an immediate threat to the Angels. It’s just not worth the $70 million-$80 million it figures to cost.

Phillies sign outfielder Michael Saunders

CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 3: Michael Saunders #21 of the Toronto Blue Jays runs to first after being walked during the third inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on May 3, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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The Phillies have signed free agent outfielder Michael Saunders.

Saunders was an All-Star in 2016 due to his wonderful start, but he cratered in the second half of the season. Overall is numbers looked good — he hit 24 homers and posted a line of .253/.338/.478, but his second half line was .178/.282/.357 in 58 games. He’s not the best defender around either.

The Phillies could use him, however, and if he has another red hot first half, there’s a decent chance they could flip him if they wanted to.

Jose Bautista and the Blue Jays nearing a two-year, $35-40 million deal

Toronto Blue Jays Jose Bautista flips his bat after hitting a three-run homer during seventh inning game 5 American League Division Series baseball action in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
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It was first reported that the Blue Jays and Jose Bautista were close to a deal last night. Now Ken Rosenthal reports that the deal is near completion. It will likely a two-year contract in the $35-40 million range.

Bautista had a tough 2016, hitting .234/.366/.452 with 22 home runs and 69 RBI, and some clubs likely considered a long-term deal for the 36-year-old too risky, this leading to the relative lack of reported interest in Bautista by other clubs. But back-to-back ALCS appearances by the Jays and the success and popularity Bautista has experienced in Toronto make his re-signing there a pretty sensible move for all involved.

The Jays, who already lost Edwin Encarnacion to free agency, get their slugger back on a short term deal. Unlike anyone else, they don’t have to give up the draft pick attached to him via the qualifying offer. Bautista, in turn, will make, on average, more than he would’ve made on the qualifying offer if he would’ve accepted it and a raise over the $14 million he made in 2016.