Joe Saunders may have priced himself out of Arizona’s plans

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Joe Saunders had a very good season in Arizona, throwing 212 innings with a 3.69 ERA despite a mediocre 109/68 K/BB ratio, but Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic reports that the Diamondbacks may end up non-tendering the 30-year-old left-hander rather than giving him a raise to $7-8 million via arbitration.

Saunders earned $5.5 million this year and made it clear to Piecoro that he wants to stick around, but that’s awfully expensive for someone with a 4.16 career ERA, just 5.0 strikeouts per nine innings, and underwhelming raw stuff.

General manager Kevin Towers hinted that the team’s interest in retaining Saunders at that salary will depend on the free agent market for starters. In other words, if the price tags are too high on their various targets the Diamondbacks could view Saunders as a one-year fallback plan.

December 12 is the deadline to tender arbitration eligible players a contract.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉