Ryan Franklin began season as Cardinals closer, but now leaning toward retirement

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It seems like a decade ago, but Ryan Franklin actually began this season as the Cardinals’ closer.

He blew four of his first five save chances to quickly lose the job and then spent two months pitching sparingly in a mop-up role before the Cardinals released the 38-year-old veteran in late June.

Franklin never latched on with another team and attended last night’s game as a fan, telling Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post Dispatch that he’s leaning toward retirement:

I know if it started tomorrow I’d be leaning toward staying around the house. It was pretty neat to be able to take my kids on their first day of school. My wife thought so, too.

If he wants to stop playing but still remain in the game it sounds like Franklin could join the Cardinals’ front office, with Strauss reporting that general manager John Mozeliak frequently consulted Franklin about various personnel decisions over the years and has remained in contact with him since the release.

In a season that has seen eight different pitchers save at least one game for the Cardinals, including extended closer stints for Fernando Salas, Eduardo Sanchez, Mitchell Boggs, and now Jason Motte, it’s worth remembering that it all started with Franklin filling the role after saving 82 games in the previous three years.

Royals sign Michael Saunders to a minor-league deal

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Free agent outfielder Michael Saunders has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Royals, the team announced Friday. While the move comes just two days after Saunders agreed to terms with the Pirates, he allegedly asked for his release after the club acquired outfielder Corey Dickerson in a multi-player swap with the Rays on Thursday.

After earning his first spot on an All-Star team in 2016, Saunders followed up a solid campaign with a career-worst performance in 2017. The 31-year-old split the season between the Phillies and Blue Jays’ camps, batting a combined .202/.256/.344 with six home runs and -0.7 fWAR in 234 plate appearances. Although he remained healthy throughout the year, with no sign of the lingering hamstring strain that has plagued him on and off since 2013, he wasn’t productive enough to merit a full-time role on either roster.

With Dickerson slated for a starting role in Pittsburgh, it was unlikely that Saunders would have commanded anything other than a backup role in 2018. Now, however, he’ll compete for playing time amid a slew of outfield options, including Alex Gordon, Cody Asche, Jorge Bonifacio, Tyler Collins and Paulo Orlando.