UPDATE: It’s a done deal, with a slight surprise: Saunders is getting a major-league contract. That means he’s got a 40-man roster spot and, barring something unforeseen, will be on the Opening Day roster.
Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports that the Rangers are close to a deal with free agent left-hander Joe Saunders.
Last offseason Seattle deemed Saunders worthy of a $6.5 million investment, but he was awful for the Mariners with a 5.26 ERA and .311 opponents’ batting average in 32 starts at age 32.
Prior to last year Saunders was generally a decent third or fourth starter, eating innings with an ERA right around league average, so this close to Opening Day he’s a nice, cheap depth pickup for the Rangers with Derek Holland and Matt Harrison hurting.
The Red Sox signed catcher Christian Vazquez to a three-year, $13.55 million extension, per a team announcement on Saturday. The agreement will keep Vazquez under contract through the 2021 season and covers two years of arbitration eligibility and the catcher’s first year of free agency. It comes with a $7 million club option (and $250,000 buyout) for 2022 that could get bumped up to $8 million if he reaches 502 plate appearances in both 2020 and 2021. Vazquez has also volunteered to make an annual donation to the Red Sox Foundation as part of his new arrangement with the club.
The 27-year-old backstop is entering his fourth year with the Red Sox in 2018. He’s been a steady defender behind the dish over the last three years and was ranked fifth-best in defense among all American League catchers at the end of the 2017 season. He also enjoyed a breakout performance at the plate, slashing a career-best .290/.330/.404 with five home runs and a .735 OPS in 345 plate appearances.
Come Opening Day, Vazquez is expected to be the Red Sox’ primary option behind the plate, with veteran Sandy Leon and Blake Swihart poised to start in backup roles. Swihart is out of options, but has been groomed for a utility role this spring and could take a few reps in the left field and the infield corners if need be, as it doesn’t appear the club is prepared to trade him just yet.