Could The Mariners Reunite With Michael Saunders?
By Adam Levi
The Toronto Blue Jays have decided not to give Michael Saunders a qualifying offer, leaving the door open for the Victoria, British Columbia native to move back within a couple ferry rides and a short drive from his home.
Let it be clear, Michael Saunders wishes to stay as part of Canada’s team, the Toronto Blue Jays. Yet, at the moment, it doesn’t seem that the Blue Jays are reciprocating that feeling -they have declined his qualifying offer that would’ve kept him put. Therefore, the Mariners can at least think about re-signing the newly minted all-star.
For years, Saunders developed his game in the Mariners organization, first through rigorous years in the minor league system, then getting promoted to the Mariners major league squad in 2009.
Once there, he worked hard to try and take his game over the proverbial hump that would’ve made him an all-star. In his best year (2011) Saunders finally broke the twenty home runs mark, the fifty RBI plateau, and even the twenty steals threshold. Unfortunately for him and the Mariners, Saunders would never reach those numbers again, at least in an M’s uniform.
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Elbow injuries would plague the outfielder, raising questions about his future potential. Then GM, Jack Zduriencik, thought Saunders was not of use anymore, and traded him away in 2014. In a move that brought in J.A. Happ, the Mariners shipped Saunders to his countries team, the Blue Jays.
The “home field” advantage seemed to have flipped a switch within Saunders this past year -his first full season on the Blue Jays roster.
Saunders set a personal best in home runs, belting twenty-four. He edged out his previous best doubles total in 2012 by one, finishing with thirty-two. He then set a new personal record for walks drawn, working hard for fifty-nine free passes. And, he tied his career-high in RBI with fifty-seven.
All of those numbers together made Saunders one of only twenty-four players -a handful of which were MVP candidates- to reach those offensive levels in each of those categories
On the flip side, Saunders also set a mark of futility. He reached a new low for striking out, being sent back to the dugout one hundred and fifty-seven times via the K. That’s twenty-five more K’s than any of his previous years.
Nevertheless, Saunders game did find its way over the hill, sparking interest around the league for his services. If the Mariners and new GM, Jerry Dipoto did decide to reverse Jack Z’s edict and bring Saunders back to Seattle, how would he fit in?
With the signing and re-signing of Danny Valencia and Seth Smith respectively, the M’s are taken care of at right-field (Saunder’s primary position), but he has experience in left and center, and at the moment, Leonys Martin is the only non-prospect on the depth chart for either position.
Ben Gamel and Guillermo Heredia are budding young players, having proven themselves at the minor league and major league levels. However, their inexperience and inconsistent playing time could potentially bring problems in the long run next year.
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They could use a mentor, someone who knows the Seattle fan base, Safeco Field, and most importantly, how to have a breakout out year in the majors. Saunders could be that guy, and why not? The Fans would love it, Saunders probably has Seattle as his second choice behind Toronto, and he could be closer to home. It can’t get much better than that for the former Mariners draft pick.