Joe Saunders is a groundball pitcher, but not quite like you might have thought... - Tasos Katopodis
Twins and Saunders appear to have mutual interest; is a deal imminent?
Word broke from Jon Morosi on Twitter Wednesday morning that the Twins had again ramped up their pursuit of left-hander Joe Saunders. Saunders ended 2012 with the upstart Baltimore Orioles, and is no stranger to the Twins after pitching for the Angels for a number of years.
The previous word for Saunders is that a three-year offer would be necessary, as he had multiple offers from other teams as such. At this point in the offseason -- at least to me -- that seems unlikely. My notion would be that the Twins would only be interested in a two-year pact, with potential for maybe a team-controlled third year.
Saunders is precisely the pitcher the Twins have coveted/cultivated/capitulated over the past handful of seasons. He's OK, and nothing more, at getting grounders, keeping the ball in the yard, and keeping free passes in check. Saunders saw a spike in strikeout rate in 2012 -- 5.7 K/9 versus career mark of 5.1 -- but his swinging strike rate of 6.6% was right in check with his career mark of 6.7%.
Essentially, it was probably a bit of an aberration.
Strikeouts just aren't part of Saunders' game, and it's obvious. Even despite spending parts of three seasons in the National League, Saunders only added 0.1 whiffs per nine from his Angels days while in the senior circuit.
And to say Saunders is about groundballs is sort of fair. If you call 2006 the beginning of his career, Saunders ranks 51st among pitchers with 700-plus innings -- figuring 100 a season as a fair-ish barometer. This ranks Saunders behind such venerable worm-burners such as....Francisco Liriano?
I surely don't remember Liriano as any sort of groundball wizard. Do you?
If we're completely honest, the Twins dalliances with Saunders would be less concerning if they hadn't already build a staff four-deep with pitchers that are cut from the same mold. Scott Diamond? Groundball fanatic. Kevin Correia? Top-10 in the majors in grounder rate last year. Mike Pelfrey? He's No. 24 on that previously alluded to Saunders list. Vance Worley? Trending towards the high-40s in grounder rates.
So what do the Twins really need with Saunders? Again, I'm not entirely sure. But the Twins have obviously made it an organizational objective to acquire strikeout guys in the minors and grounder inducers in the majors. If the price is right on Saunders -- and as a strikeout fanatic myself, I'm not sure if there is a good price -- the Twins might lock in another innings-eater. My guess would be two years, $17.5ish million.
We shall see, however.