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.
An interesting tidbit today from The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, who noted that ongoing talks between agent Scott Boras and the Padres have focused more on starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel than slugger Bryce Harper. Earlier this week, there were conflicting reports on the Padres’ level of interest in Harper — MLB Network’s Jon Heyman heard the club had not ruled out another big signing after getting Manny Machado, while Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune talked to multiple sources who believed otherwise — but any agreement between the two is looking unlikelier by the day.
As for Keuchel, Rosenthal cautions that a potential deal is still a “longshot,” especially as the team has other, cheaper options in mind. The 31-year-old southpaw turned down a qualifying offer from the Astros last year and is likely angling for something north of the five-year, $90 million contract extension he rejected from the club in 2016. He’s coming off of another solid performance in Houston, where he went 12-11 in 34 starts with a 3.74 ERA, 2.6 BB/9, 6.7 SO/9, and 3.6 fWAR through 204 2/3 innings in 2018.
While Keuchel has failed to garner substantial interest around the league this offseason, Heyman points out that the Phillies are looking to establish themselves as frontrunners for the lefty — and they’re far less likely to have hang-ups about his asking price, too.