Saunders, Feldman and Wuertz agree to new deals

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Joe Saunders.jpg– The Angels and Joe Saunders avoided arbitration on Friday by agreeing to a one-year, $3.7 million contract. The 28-year-old southpaw asked for $3.85 million and was offered $3.6 million when arbitration figures were exchanged last week, so he settled for a little less than the midpoint. Saunders was 16-7 with a 4.60 ERA in 31 starts last season. He was 7-0 with a 2.55 ERA over his final eight starts after serving a stint on the disabled list due to a shoulder irritation.

– The Rangers and Scott Feldman avoided arbitration by agreeing to terms on a one-year, $2,425,000 contract. Feldman, who was arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter, asked for $2.9 million and was offered $2.05 million when figures were released last week. Though he didn’t start the season in the rotation, the 26-year-old right-hander surprised by finishing 17-8 with a 4.08 ERA and 1.28 WHIP. He’s not nearly as good as the wins would have you think, but as Fangraphs astutely pointed out, his cut fastball was worth 25.9 runs last season, leading the majors. Yes, even better more than Mariano Rivera.

– Finally, the Athletics inked right-hander Michael Wuertz to a two-year, $5.25 million contract with a $3.5 million club option for 2012. According to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, the 31-year-old right-hander will earn $2.2 million in 2010 and $2.8 million in 2011. The Athletics can buy out the option for $250,000. Wuertz compiled a 2.63 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 102/23 K/BB ratio in 78 2/3 innings with the Athletics last season, emerging as one of the best set-up men in the majors.

Justin Turner is a postseason monster

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A not-insignificant amount of the Dodgers’ success in recent years has to do with the emergence of Justin Turner. In his first five seasons with the Orioles and Mets, he was a forgettable infielder who had versatility, but no power. The Mets non-tendered him after the 2013 season, a move they now really regret.

In four regular seasons since, as a Dodger, Turner has hit an aggregate .303/.378/.502. His 162-game averages over those four seasons: 23 home runs, 36 doubles, 83 RBI, 80 runs scored. And he’s also a pretty good third baseman, it turns out. The Dodgers have averaged 95 wins per season over the past four years.

Turner, 32, has gotten better and better with each passing year. This year, he drew more walks (59) than strikeouts (56), a club only five other players (min. 300 PA) belonged to, and he trailed only Joey Votto (1.61) in BB/K ratio (1.05). He zoomed past his previous career-high in OPS, finishing at .945. His .415 on-base percentage was fourth-best in baseball. His batting average was fifth-best and only nine points behind NL batting champion Charlie Blackmon.

It doesn’t seem possible, but Turner has been even better in the postseason. He exemplified that with his walk-off home run to win Game 2 of the NLCS against the Cubs. Overall, entering Wednesday night’s action, he was batting .363/.474/.613 in 97 postseason plate appearances. In Game 4, he went 2-for-2 with two walks, a single, and a solo home run. That increases his postseason slash line to .378/.495/.659, now across 101 plate appearances. That’s a 1.154 OPS. The career-high regular season OPS for future first-ballot Hall of Famer Albert Pujols was 1.114 in 2008, when he won his third career MVP Award. Statistically, in the postseason, Turner hits slightly better than Pujols did in the prime of his career. Of course, we should adjust for leagues and parks and all that, but to even be in that neighborhood is incredible.

In the age of stats, the concept of “clutch” has rightfully eroded. We don’t really allow players to ascend to godlike levels anymore like the way we did Derek Jeter, for instance. (Jeter’s career OPS in the playoffs, by the way, was a comparatively pitiful .838.) Turner isn’t clutch; he’s just a damn good hitter whose careful approach at the plate has allowed him to shine in the postseason and the Dodgers can’t imagine life without him.