Joe Saunders wanted to stay in Arizona, but Diamondbacks “wanted to go a different direction”

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Joe Saunders is being linked to a handful of teams now that he’s a free agent, but the veteran left-hander never wanted to hit the open market in the first place.

Saunders told Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic that he “really wanted to come back” to the Diamondbacks, but the team “wanted to go a different direction” and non-tendered him rather than pay around $8.5 million via arbitration.

Of course, Saunders had the opportunity to stay. He just didn’t like the Diamondbacks’ two-year, $12 million offer and when he countered at three years and $27 million they “never countered back.”

Saunders repeatedly called his counter offer “very reasonable,” but odds are he won’t get $27 million as a free agent. He should, however, top the two-year, $12 million offer, although that’s certainly no sure thing for a 30-year-old with a 4.16 career ERA and mediocre secondary numbers.

Dominic Smith dealing with a strained right quad

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Mets first baseman Dominic Smith is dealing with a strained right quad and is set to undergo an MRI on Monday, MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo reports.

Smith, 22, did not play in the Mets’ first Grapefruit League game after showing up late. He played on Saturday, scoring two runs on a single and a hit-by-pitch in two plate appearances. He was held out of Sunday’s lineup.

The Mets signed Adrian Gonzalez during the offseason, which makes him the front runner for the starting job at first base. Smith needs to have a strong spring showing to make the 25-man roster but so far, it hasn’t gone well.

Smith made his major league debut in August last year and ended up playing in 49 games. He struggled to a .198/.262/.395 slash line with nine home runs and 26 RBI in 183 plate appearances.