Joe Saunders, Mistakes & Hometown Discounts

After an offseason of three-year contract demands and reported interest from every team in need of a pitcher, Joe Saunders wound up re-signing with the Diamondbacks yesterday, taking a one-year contract worth $6 million. He’ll presumably step into the rotation alongside Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, Trevor Cahill, and Josh Collmenter while Tyler Skaggs, Trevor Bauer, and others bide their time in the minors. The contract itself is appropriate for Saunders — 116 FIP- in 97 starts and 601.1 IP over the last three years — from the team’s perspective, but the player ended up making a pretty egregious error.

After pitching to a 3.69 ERA and 4.78 FIP in 212 innings for the Diamondbacks last year, Saunders was poised to earn approximately $8.7 million his third time and final time through arbitration according to projections by our own Matt Swartz at MLB Trade Rumors. That salary was a dealbreaker for the D’Backs, though they had interest in retaining the southpaw at a more reasonable price. Here’s Nick Piecoro of The Arizona Republic with the details…

They didn’t want to pay Saunders what he’d make in arbitration – around $8.5 million — but they were willing to bring him back on a multiyear deal. On the first day of the [winter meetings], the Diamondbacks made an offer: two years, $12 million.

Saunders’ camp saw it as too low. They countered: three years, $27 million.

“The Diamondbacks never countered back,” Saunders said. “The tender deadline was approaching and we pretty much asked them to counter with something back, give us something else we can think about, really, and they wouldn’t do it.”

“I was projected to make between $8.5 million and $9 million, so we took that and then figured that the next two are my free agent years and put them at $9 million,” Saunders said. “I thought $27 (million) was reasonable.”

It’s worth noting that everything Piecoro explained happened prior to the Cahill trade, so the team’s rotation picture hadn’t come into focus just yet. Perhaps if they’d made the trade sooner, the two-year offer would have never been made.

Anyway, Saunders goes on to explain that he later informed the team that a two-year deal would work, but by then the offer was off the table and Arizona was set to cut him loose. Ken Rosenthal reported earlier this month that the left-hander had received multi-year offers on the open market, and that the three-year deal he coveted was still possible. Saunders passed on those offers, and is now back with the D’Backs for half the contract they originally offered to him. If that’s not bad enough, Buster Olney said yesterday (Insider req’d) that Arizona re-signed only after thinking they had a deal in place with Bartolo Colon before he signed with the Athletics.

Now it’s easy to sit here and say that Saunders and his representatives at Legacy Sports Group either overestimated his value or completely misread the market, but that’s not entirely the case. GM Kevin Towers told Piecoro yesterday that the lefty had offers in the two-year, $12 million range on the open market, but they were from clubs on the East Coast. Saunders grew up in Virginia but now makes his home out west, so he took what amounts to a hometown discount to remain in Arizona. “This is where his home is, where wants to be,” said the GM.

It’s a good life when a guaranteed $6 million can be considered a mistake, but Saunders had a chance to lock himself into a payday twice that size from the very team he ended up rejoining. The second and third tier free agent pitching options have had a rough winter because so many of the clubs in need of pitching went big by trading for young, cost-controlled arms (Reds, Yankees, Nationals, and even the D’Backs). Saunders is a useful player but not a difference maker, and he hung himself out to dry a bit by not jumping on those two guaranteed years when offered, a mistake Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano, and Bruce Chen didn’t make.

Click here to submit your Fan Projection for Saunders.



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Mike writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues and baseball in general at CBS Sports.


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Monroe
Guest
Monroe
4 years 6 months ago

I almost felt sorry for Saunders until he said he thought 3/27 was “reasonable.”

Hmm
Guest
Hmm
4 years 6 months ago

Jorge DeLaRosa signed for 3/33 last year 3/27 isn’t insane as far as a starting point for a guy coming off a great year in a hitters park

Dan
Guest
4 years 6 months ago

This is more a reply to Mike Axisa than anything, but a) Joe has out-performed his FIP by ~0.5 throughout his entire career, b) out-performed his xFIP by ~0.4 throughout his career, and c) had a 4.38 xFIP last year, the best full-season mark of his career. Thus, a sub-4 benchmark for what his ERA should have been is actually somewhat reasonable, and for 200 innings in a hitter’s park, that’s a season worthy of more than 1-yr, $6MM on the market.

Depending on your definition of great, I guess I get the objection, but the article doesn’t give enough credit to how good Saunders was by posting his FIP without noting how it’s grossly misrepresented him throughout his career.

Yirmiyahu
Member
4 years 6 months ago

You can’t fault a guy for thinking he’s worth more than he is. And floating numbers that are unreasonably high/low is a normal starting point to negotiations.

You can, however, fault his agent for not advising him to take the $12M/2.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
4 years 6 months ago

Offer: 12/2

Counter: 27/3

That’s one way to go about it.

Madoff Withurmoni
Guest
Madoff Withurmoni
4 years 6 months ago

……2nd Offer: Get lost
2nd Counter: Wait, what? Did I say 3 for $27m? No, I meant I’ll take it. Yup, that’s what I meant.
D’Backs: Sorry, too late.
Saunders: But…..PuhLEEeeease! I’ll do anything.
D’Backs: Ok, 1 for $6m but you have to clean toilets too.
Saunders: DEAL! (mwahahahaha…..had them all along)

Snapper
Guest
Snapper
4 years 6 months ago

I don’t see not taking 2/12 as much of a mistake.

He’s getting the $6M this year. He could have a fluky good year and get more next year.

joel
Guest
4 years 6 months ago

the thing that mr axisa is saying is because his fip was a run higher than his era this year was the fluky year.

David K
Guest
David K
4 years 6 months ago

What I don’t get is if the Dbacks weren’t going to offer arbitration for fear of paying $8.5 mil for ONE year, why on earth would they agree to a larger per-year deal over a longer term (the 3-yr/27 mil counter by Saunders)? That just sounds ridiculous from the start.

Dave
Guest
Dave
4 years 6 months ago

Probably saw what Boras was seeking for Jackson and thought mediocre pitchers were in high demand.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
4 years 6 months ago

Over the last 3 years: Jackson is about 20th in WAR, right in between Cole Hamels and Josh Beckett (well, and Wainwright when you count his big zero in 2011).

I hope that no one, including us, Saunders, Boras, or anyone else is viewing Saunders and Jackson as being anywhere close to similar. Saunders 3.8 WAR from 09-11.

If Saunders was looking at Jackson, he should have come to the conclusion that he’s been 1/3 as valuable and should consider the 6M/y a more than fair price for his performance. Heh Heh.

Of course, it wouldn’t be above Boras to take Saunders’ 6M/y and state that Jackson has been 3 X’s as valuable and ask for 90/5 (18M/y). *grin*

Where EJackson ends up and for how much money and how many years is one of the more interesting situations to me for this off-season.

Everything has been about Pujols and Prince (and some trades), but there’s a 3.5 WAR pitcher out there looking for a job. Putting up 3.6, 3.8, 3.8 WAR over 3 years, with 5 teams in 2 leagues is probably a realistic estimate of his “current talent”.

Of course, whoever signs him also has to watch him pitch every 5 days, and it can be incredibly confusing, frustrating, etc … but the value is there. I’d like to be able to give him Kyle Lohse or Jake Westbrook’s contract.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
4 years 6 months ago

Not to hijack the thread or anything, but is interesting to me …

2 pitchers of similar WAR value to Jackson who signed contracts this year …

1. Danks 65/5
2. Buehrle 58/4

Dave actually had an article stating that Danks was the LH Jackson, and he’s right.

Reports suggest that he is looking for a 60/5 contract, which seems to be market value for him, but most comments seem to scoff at the notion that he’s worth that. So far, I only really see the NYY as interested party.

60/5 seems right in line with what 2 other 3.5 WAR pitchers received and for similar length of contract.

joel
Guest
4 years 6 months ago

do u post on stltodays cardstalk circlechange? i know u post a lot on here and u r a cardinals fan just curious.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
4 years 6 months ago

Nope. Just here and The Book blog.

joel
Guest
4 years 6 months ago

well u should. lots of dummies there for sure but its much easier to have a conversation there. also lots of people who r sabermetricly inclined. its worth a try take my word for it.

pft
Guest
pft
4 years 6 months ago

A 1 yr deal may not be a bad thing. With a good year and a rebound in the market he may do much better than 6 million next year, and with more years.

Of course, since after the CBA was finalized , it may be collusion is rearing it’s ugly head again. Owners may be banding together to not spend much on DH, RP’ers and non-elite SP’ers. If so, next year won’t be much different for him.

Valuearb
Guest
Valuearb
4 years 6 months ago

He just had his good year. He is going to be scrambling for a job after next year.

gonfalon
Guest
gonfalon
4 years 6 months ago

If there’s collusion among MLB owners this offseason, no one told the Angels and Marlins about it.

Antonio Bananas
Guest
Antonio Bananas
4 years 6 months ago

How about a mid season trade if he over performs? They have the young pitching talent to cover him. Let him pitch the first half while the youngins get polished a bit, then trade him for whatever piece you need and call up the best young guy.

AA
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AA
4 years 6 months ago

Saunders seems to regularly outperform his FIP.

Davor
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Davor
4 years 6 months ago

Saunder’s mistake was wanting to stay in the west. LA doesn’t buy, SEA, OAK, SF and SD are set, LAA and TEX are looking for aces, not mid-rotation help, so ARI was his only choice. If he wanted $8M or more per season, he had to go to central of east.

call me
Guest
call me
4 years 3 months ago

saunders will start 33 games and win 18 or 19

he will be a yankee in 2012 or a bosox…

sub 3 ERA for 2012. call me if u want me to be a GM or Scout.

i’ll give u my email later.

wpDiscuz