The Diamondbacks couldn’t come to terms with Joe Saunders on either a one- or a two-year deal and have chosen to non-tender the left-hander, according to FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal.
Micah Owings, who did a nice job against righties out of the bullpen last season, will also be let go.
Saunders went 12-13 with a 3.69 ERA in his first full season in Arizona after being acquired in 2010 in the Dan Haren deal. The 30-year-old has a lifetime record of 69-52 and a 4.16 ERA.
The Diamondbacks, though, must believe a decline was on the way. While his ERA was well down last season, his peripherals were little better than when he finished with a 4.60 ERA in 2009 and a 4.47 ERA in 2010. He struck out a career-low 4.6 batters per nine innings and gave up 29 homers in his 33 starts.
Saunders does have durability working for him, and odds are that someone is going to want to pay him at least $7 million per year to come in and serve as a third or fourth starter. Many suspect the Red Sox will be interested, though the guess here is that they’ll pass. The Twins, Marlins, Nationals, Royals and Padres would all seem to be possibilities.
Spring training is tough for players under the best of circumstances. Even in an age when players work out all year, getting back into the swing of baseball-at-full-speed is tough. Many players spend the bulk of February and March knocking off the rust and getting their timing back. Because of this — and because the games have no real stakes — it is not wise to take spring training statistics super seriously. Especially if the player in question is assured of a spot on the roster and is trying to avoid injury before the regular season arrives.
Spring training for Shohei Ohtani is doubly difficult. Not only does he have to knock the rust off from the offseason, but he (a) has to get used to a new country and language; (b) has to get to know all new teammates, coaches and, really, an entirely new baseball culture; and (c) do all of that while dealing with a media crush that hasn’t been seen in baseball since Ichiro first arrived 17 years ago. In short, Ohtani is under massive pressure and has to make massive adjustments in a short time.
With that said, neither the Angels nor Ohtani can be all that pleased with how his spring training has gone. In two actual major league exhibition games he’s allowed eight runs in two and two-thirds innings. Seven of those came on Friday when he was shelled by the Rockies in an inning and a third. If you include B-games against minor leaguers, he has allowed 17 runs on 18 hits, four of which were homers, in four games. As a hitter he’s 2-for-20.
As Jeff Fletcher of the OC Register notes, Ohtani’s peripherals are not bad, as he has struck out a lot of guys and walked very few and the average on balls in play against him has been brutal, which is not super sustainable. Bad luck and some fat pitches at a time of the year when luck doesn’t really matter and the pitches, because of the rust, are likely to be fatter than normal.
As Fletcher also notes, Nolan Arenado, who faced Ohtani on Friday, said that his stuff looked good and that he’s going to be a good big league pitcher. Ohtani and Angels officials are all striking the right notes about bad luck and adjustments, saying that they’re not worried.
I imagine they’d be worrying even less if things had gone well this spring. Unless of course this is just a professional wrestling-style work aimed at getting more of us to watch his regular season debut, in which he’ll reveal that he was sandbaggin’ all along.