Joe Saunders is being placed today on baseball’s version of a taxi squad. He won’t officially join the team until Monday, at which point a corresponding roster move must be made.
(CORRECTION): Saunders signed a one-year, $6 million deal with the Diamondbacks over the winter. He can become a free agent after this season.
The Orioles talked to Saunders’ representative over the winter and to the Diamondbacks this summer as the non-waiver trade deadline approached.
“We’ve liked Joe Saunders for quite a while,” said executive vice president Dan Duquette. “We’ve had some discussions. He’s a local kid, he’s pitched in the American League, he’s pitched in the playoffs, he’s pitched in a tough ballpark in Arizona. And we just like his experience. I think he complements our starting rotation, which has three rookies. And I also like the fact that he’s left-handed. I think that gives us a little bit better balance as we face some of those left-handed hitting lineups down the stretch.
“I don’t know if there were other teams involved. We started discussions with Saunders a long time ago, during the summertime and this is the opportunity that we were waiting for. It just came together over the weekend.
“I’ve always felt pretty good about this ballclub. We have a number of players who are having good years, which you need to have. I just like this addition of veteran left-handed depth to our staff, because it helps solidify the starting rotation while we’re waiting for Jason Hammel to return. And then, if Jason Hammel does return, it gives us another good left-handed option, because Joe Saunders is very good left-on-left. So while we are waiting for, say, (Troy) Patton to come back, if we have several starters doing well, I just think Joe gives us more depth to our pitching staff.”
The deal cost the Orioles right-hander Matt Lindstrom, the latest reliever from Baltimore to wind up in Arizona. The roll call includes David Hernandez, Kam Mickolio, Matt Albers and Brad Bergesen.
“Matt Lindstrom did a nice job for us and he contributed to the bullpen,” Duquette said. “I just think the left-handed addition to our starting rotation and the capability to get more innings at a high level was better for the team at this stage of the season. And who knows? Joe Saunders is a local kid. Maybe he’s with us beyond this year. That’s something we can certainly take a look at. But this is something that strengthens us now.
“We have a number of right-handers doing a good job in our bullpen and we have some other pitchers who are available who can do that job. One of them is here today, Jake Arrieta.”
Duquette isn’t concerned about Saunders’ reputation for being a flyball pitcher.
“I wouldn’t consider him a flyball pitcher, because he’s got a good sinker and he’s got a good changeup. And flyball pitchers don’t generally do very well in that ballpark in Arizona, so Joe’s a very capable professional pitcher,” Duquette said. “He can command his fastball, he’s got a good overhand breaking ball and he has a very good changeup. Good competitor, good control. So I think all those attributes will serve him well in our league.”
Saunders is here to help push the Orioles into the playoffs for the first time since 1997. As Duquette said early, they’re “all in.”
“I like our ballclub’s chances,” he said. “There’s an old saying that if you’re going in the right direction, keep walking, so the addition of Joe Saunders gives us a good chance to keep walking in the right direction. I think it gives us better balance against the left-handed lineups we are going to be facing.”
Is Duquette done adding to the roster?
“We’re always looking to improve the ballclub,” he said. “I’m really heartened with the young pitchers that we’ve brought up and have pitched really well. Steve Johnson has done a nice job. Chris Tillman has done a good job. Miguel Gonzalez, they’ve all a very good job. I think Saunders is experienced and the fact that he is left-handed is a really good complement to what those players have done.”
The PTBNL will be decided after the season.
Showalter said the Orioles won’t go with a six-man rotation. However, they could “match up some as the season goes forward with everybody,” he said.
I’ll have more from Showalter in my next entry. Meanwhile, we have a rain delay. The tarp remains on the field, though the clouds are parting and the sun is trying to peek through.