Never say never.
Apparently, the Orioles won’t be re-signing left-hander Joe Saunders, who reached agreement last night on a one-year deal with the Seattle Mariners, according to FoxSports.com.
It’s believed that the Orioles also had a one-year offer on the table, and their ballpark is much closer to Virginia, where Saunders was born and played in high school and college. So what gives?
Money, perhaps? A preference for the moose mascot? The assumption that Felix Hernandez will pick up every check?
Saunders’ decision is good news for Jair Jurrjens, who has two minor league options remaining and most likely would have been squeezed out of the rotation. Then again, we’re still waiting for the Orioles to announce that Jurrjens passed his physical. They’re being extremely cautious with him, given the past issues with his right knee.
It’s also good news for, well, all the other rotation candidates - Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton, Steve Johnson, Tommy Hunter, Brian Matusz, T.J. McFarland, Zach Clark, etc.
It would be premature to assume that executive vice president Dan Duquette has abandoned all hope of acquiring another pitcher. Remember, the Orioles didn’t sign Miguel Gonzalez last year until the first week of March. But what are the other options?
Kyle Lohse would still cost the Orioles their first pick in this year’s First-Year Player Draft, in case you were wondering.
Saunders was 3-3 with a 3.63 ERA in seven regular-season starts with the Orioles. He was 1-0 with a 1.59 ERA in two playoff starts, getting the win in Texas after manager Buck Showalter was strongly second-guessed for handing him the ball.
The Orioles wanted to keep him. He wanted to re-sign with them. Instead, he took a one-year deal with the Mariners, which will become official once he passes a physical.
I wondered back in December whether the market was set for Saunders after former Nationals left-hander John Lannan accepted a one-year, $2.5 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. Then I remembered the four-year, $52 million contract signed by Edwin Jackson, the three-year, $25 million contract signed by Jeremy Guthrie, the two-year, $26.5 million contract signed by Ryan Dempster. And I was confused again.
Maybe Saunders settled for one year so he could re-enter the free-agent market next winter. Maybe he believes the American League West will make it easier to re-establish his value, increase his stock, than the AL East. Maybe he’s already bored with the playoffs. Maybe he’s distracted by his 6-0 record and 2.13 ERA in nine career starts at Safeco Field.
Maybe it won’t be as easy pitching there when he’s not facing the Mariners’ lineup.
Saunders reportedly was seeking a four-year deal earlier in the winter, then lowered his expectations to three years. Now he’s settling for one.
So are the Orioles done making moves?
Never say never - unless it’s about the Orioles retaining Saunders in 2013. That’s never going to happen.