At the end of the regular season, Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik and manager Lloyd McClendon attended a wrap-up press conference during which they were asked about the promise outfielder Michael Saunders showed despite suffering from injuries which limited his playing time. Zduriencik suggested that Saunders could do more to improve his durability, while McClendon said Saunders could spend more time in the weight room.
Zduriencik went on several different radio stations later that day. On KJR, Dave Mahler asked him about Saunders. Zduriencik doubled down, reiterating that Saunders could be doing more to allow himself the physical capability to play a full season.
That didn’t sit well with Saunders or his agent, Mike McCann. Saunders didn’t directly speak about the issue, but Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times said the outfielder had “obvious frustration in his voice”. McCann, on the other hand, had plenty to say:
“It was shocking to hear that,” McCann said. “The first time I heard that was the day of the presser. And Michael was never told that there is something that needed to be changed. If there was, Michael Saunders would do it. These comments don’t reflect Michael Saunders’ work habits. They imply that that he’s lackadaisical.”
McCann also expressed disappointment that Zduriencik publicly criticized Saunders, and added that Zduriencik has yet to have a direct conversation with Saunders.
In 263 plate appearances during the regular season, Saunders hit .273/.341/.450 with eight home runs and 34 RBI. It was easily the most productive the 27-year-old had been at the plate since making his major league debut in 2009. However, Saunders made two trips to the disabled list. The first stretched from mid- to late-June due to inflammation of the A/C joint in his right shoulder. The second caused him to miss 50 games due to a strained left oblique.
Saunders earned $2.3 million during the 2014 season and is eligible for arbitration for the second of three years. Divish suggests it’s unlikely the Mariners try to move Saunders since they have him under control for two more years and the club lacks outfield depth. But one has to wonder that if an offer comes along, which would allow the Mariners to improve the team elsewhere, they would seize the opportunity to turn the page.