After holding out for a three-year deal for most of the winter, it appears that Joe Saunders is close to deciding where he’ll pitch in 2013.
According to Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports, Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said at the team’s FanFest event today that Saunders is “probably going to make a decision this week.” The Orioles have maintained interest in retaining the veteran southpaw, but Duquette doesn’t have a “real sense” of whether he’ll be back and plans to pursue other veteran pitchers if he opts to sign elsewhere.
Saunders is unlikely to get the three-year contract he covets this late in the winter, so he may have to settle for a one- or two-year deal. The Twins and Mets are among the other clubs who have been connected to him in recent days.
Saunders, 31, posted a 4.07 ERA and 112/39 K/BB ratio over 174 2/3 innings last season with the Diamondbacks and Orioles. He owns a 4.15 ERA over eight seasons in the majors.
The Mets signed catcher Jose Lobaton to a minor league contract, the team announced Friday. The deal includes an invitation to spring training, where it’s assumed Lobaton will be in the mix for a backup role behind Travis d'Arnaud and Kevin Plawecki.
Lobaton, 33, is coming off of a four-year stint with the Nationals. He put up his worst career numbers in 2017, producing -0.6 fWAR after slashing just .170/.248/.277 with four home runs in 158 plate appearances. While he’ll give the Mets little to work with at the plate, his near-decade of experience behind the dish should make him a decent emergency option, if nothing else.
In the meantime, the Mets are expected to roll with a d’Arnaud/Plawecki platoon to start the season. Both catchers saw slight upticks in value over the 2017 season: d’Arnaud turned in 0.8 fWAR after hitting a career-high 16 home runs, while Plawecki collected 0.6 fWAR and three homers after raising his batting line over the Mendoza Line for the first time since 2015.