Joe Saunders waited until the last minute before finally selecting a team. Now, the Orioles can move on.
Saunders has reportedly reached an agreement on a one-year contract with Seattle. Safeco Field has been a place where Saunders has pitched well, and he’ll join Felix Hernandez, who is nearing a mammoth contract extension with the Mariners, on the staff. It was a busy day for pitcher’s negotiations in Seattle.
Without Saunders, the Orioles can join that if Jair Jurrjens finally passes his physical and remains healthy in spring training, he can be the fifth starter—until Tsuyoshi Wada is ready.
Perhaps Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton or Steve Johnson outpitches a healthy Jurrjens during the spring and makes the club as a starter.
There aren’t any accomplished healthy starters remaining in the free agent pool except for Kyle Lohse, who would have long since signed with someone if he didn’t require draft pick compensation. At 34, a year or two of Lohse is a risky proposition.
The competition for Saunders wasn’t particularly intense, but in recent weeks, he apparently had interest from the Mets, Twins and Pirates. He’s dependable and was the last big name available who didn’t require compensation.
With spring training about to begin, both Lohse and outfielder Michael Bourn are still without teams. Bourn, who the Orioles briefly discussed, also requires compensation, and Dan Duquette would like to use his draft picks to stock up the farm system.
If Arrieta, Britton, Johnson, Jurrjens or Wada don’t excite you, they’re much better choices than the team has had for the back end of the rotation in many years. There are at least two other alternatives not far along: Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman.
Both Bundy and Gausman are slated to start the season in Bowie, but their stays there shouldn’t be longer.
Wei-Yin Chen, Jason Hammel, Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez and one of the names mentioned above, isn’t a bad mix at all. Even without Joe Saunders, the Orioles rotation is looking a lot more accomplished than it was a year ago.