Indians sign former first-rounder David Cooper to one-year deal

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After having his career derailed by back problems, first baseman David Cooper is on the way back with Cleveland, signing a one-year, major league deal on Monday.

Cooper, Toronto’s first-round pick in 2008, was last seen hitting .300/.324/.464 in 140 at-bats with the Blue Jays in 2012. He hurt his back that August diving back into first base and had surgery in 2013 to have a plate and screws inserted into his vertebrae. The Jays released him in March, and the Indians initially signed him in August, only to let him go when he requested his release a couple of weeks later.

The signing today puts him on the 40-man roster, but he probably won’t break camp with the Indians. He’s going to need at least a couple of hundred at-bats in Triple-A before he’s ready to contend for a roster spot.

Still, if Cooper does end up contributing, the Indians will be able to keep him for a long time. He doesn’t even have one full year of service time yet, so he’s probably not going to be arbitration eligible until after 2016 or eligible for free agency until after 2019.

Royals sign Michael Saunders to a minor-league deal

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Free agent outfielder Michael Saunders has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Royals, the team announced Friday. While the move comes just two days after Saunders agreed to terms with the Pirates, he allegedly asked for his release after the club acquired outfielder Corey Dickerson in a multi-player swap with the Rays on Thursday. MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan adds that Saunders will make $1.5 million upon reaching the majors, with a potential $500,000 in bonuses.

After earning his first spot on an All-Star team in 2016, Saunders followed up a solid campaign with a career-worst performance in 2017. The 31-year-old split the season between the Phillies and Blue Jays’ camps, batting a combined .202/.256/.344 with six home runs and -0.7 fWAR in 234 plate appearances. Although he remained healthy throughout the year, with no sign of the lingering hamstring strain that has plagued him on and off since 2013, he wasn’t productive enough to merit a full-time role on either roster.

With Dickerson slated for a starting role in Pittsburgh, it was unlikely that Saunders would have commanded anything other than a backup role in 2018. Now, however, he’ll compete for playing time amid a slew of outfield options, including Alex Gordon, Cody Asche, Jorge Bonifacio, Tyler Collins and Paulo Orlando.