ESPN’s Buster Olney tweets that left-hander Joe Saunders “has a very good chance of returning to the Arizona Diamondbacks on a two-year deal.”
The news comes amid rumors that the arbitration-eligible Saunders was likely to be shopped this winter. While he’s a reliable middle-of-the-rotation guy, Saunders was already one of the Diamondbacks’ highest-paid players at $5.5 million last season and he was looking at a raise to at least $7.5 million next year.
Saunders, who was acquired in the Dan Haren trade with the Angels in 2010, went 12-13 with a 3.69 ERA and a 108/67 K/BB ratio in 212 innings last season. It was his best ERA since 2008, but it was also the lowest strikeout rate of his career, suggesting that the ERA might have been something of a fluke. Saunders came in at 4.60 and 4.47 the previous two seasons.
A two-year deal would take care of Saunders last year of arbitration and first of free agency. A safe guess is that it’d earn him about $16 million.
The Mets signed left-hander Matt Purke to a minor league deal, the team announced Friday. Purke will also receive an invitation to spring training, where he could presumably beef up the club’s left-handed relief options alongside Jerry Blevins and Josh Smoker.
Purke has not appeared in the majors since 2016, when he was used in a dozen relief appearances by the White Sox. The 27-year-old racked up a 5.50 ERA, 6.0 BB/9 and 7.5 SO/9 in his first 18 innings with the team, and was demoted to Triple-A Charlotte in June to finish out the season. He spent the entire 2017 season in Triple-A as well, showing more promise with a 3.84 ERA, 3.8 BB/9 and 11.0 SO/9 in 48 appearances.
While Purke may not amount to much more than a depth piece in New York’s ‘pen, the veteran lefty figures to be part of the Mets’ new bullpen-first strategy next year. Reports from MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo indicate that the club will be focusing on improving their relief options in order to ease the workload of their starting pitchers, and will likely add a few more arms before the offseason comes to a close.