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.
In an age in which even baseball’s richest teams talk about tight budgets and keeping payroll low, it’s pretty rare to hear anyone connected with a front office talking about freely spending money. Phillies owner John Middleton, however, offered up something rare about the team’s approach to free agency.
“We’re going into this expecting to spend money, and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it,” he told Bob Nightengale or USA Today. He then added, “we just prefer not to be completely stupid.” That save aside, it was a pretty unusual sentiment these days.
“Stupid” could certainly mean Bryce Harper, who the Phillies have long been expected to pursue. It could even mean Harper and Manny Machado. Why not? At the moment the Phillies’ payroll for 2019 is looking to be just a shade above $100 million, so even adding, say, $70 million to that would not put them in an unreasonable position compared to other competitors. And that’s before you figure in any sort of back-loading or deferred money that Harper and/or Machado might agree to.
Or, even if they didn’t get one or both of those guys, they could spend that same kind of money on multiple free agents. Patrick Corbin? Marwin Gonzalez? A handful of others? We counted down the top 100 free agents last week and any number of them could be acquired given the sort of payroll flexibility a large market team like the Phillies appear to have. It merely requires the will to do it. A will which, it seems, John Middleton possesses.