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Coveting Michael Saunders

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The Mariners hate their young outfielder and the Twins need a new left fielder. Kismet.

Otto Greule Jr

I'm a simple man. I have simple tastes. Now that Paul Molitor has been chosen to lead the Twins and is assembling his elite coaching staff of what I assume will be former Brewers and Blue Jays, all I really want from the Twins this offseason is a new left fielder.

I think, or at least I hope, we can all agree that Jordan Schafer is not a long term solution to any outfield position. As much fun as it was to watch him run all over the field in defiance of his lengthy and awful history in the major leagues, it is exceptionally rare for 27 year olds with over 1000 plate appearances and a 71 career OPS+ to make a meaningful leap to become serviceable. So while we all should thank Schafer for making the end of 2014 a little less awful to endure, that shouldn't have any bearing on where the Twins turn in 2015 and beyond.

Likewise, it's hard to envision a similar leap forward for Aaron Hicks, at least enough to make seeing him in left field next year at all palatable. Assuming that Danny Santana really does start the year at shortstop, Hicks and Schafer will be needed to man center field anyway until Buxton is ready (assuming he is not hit a falling piece of Skylab before that day). The Twins need someone in left field, then, who can at least fill the hole admirably until they figure out a longer term solution, be that Eddie Rosario, Miguel Sano, or a finally on track Hicks.

A little over the month ago, I mused that having Torii back wouldn't necessarily be so bad. Then, of course, Torii cut a campaign ad for a bigot running for Governor in Arkansas, and now we're fighting again. I don't need the players I root for to be good people, necessarily, but I do need to be able to pretend they don't hold noxious beliefs, and frankly I'd like it if they could play a whole lot better than Hunter is likely going to provide in 2015.

So it is that I have turned my attentions west, and to Michael Saunders, of the Seattle Mariners. Saunders, a 28 year old former center fielder, has fallen far out of favor with the Mariners, who have publicly criticized his conditioning and are said to be pushing hard to trade him. Neither side is happy with each other, and it seems like a change of scenery is entirely in order.

Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik has said that Saunders could do more to improve his durability, while manager Lloyd McClendon has said he should spend more time in the weight room. I'm not really in position to dispute them, though Saunders' agent is, and he strongly takes issue with this characterization, saying "Michael was never told that there is something that needed to be changed. If there was, Michael Saunders would do it. These comments don't reflect Michael Saunders' work habits. They imply that he's lackadaisical."

Saunders has also been pretty stretched over his career as the Mariners' primary center fielder, a position he's mostly been forced into by the continuing and horrific health problems of Franklin Gutierrez. When he wasn't out with an oblique or a shoulder injury over the past year, Saunders hit .273/.341/.450. Freed from center field, Saunders also showed that he had enough range at the outfield corners to be an asset there. In half of a season, he was worth somewhere between two and two-and-a-half wins for the surprisingly competitive Mariners.

Perhaps best of all, Saunders also has two more years of team control, which would buy the Twins time to either develop a proper replacement, or sign Saunders to fill that gap over the long term. Plus, with such a short commitment, should Rosario, Sano, or Hicks prove the better option, Saunders would still be highly tradable, especially if his franchise doesn't spend the offseason tearing him down in the media.

So what do you need Seattle? A plucky shortstop like Eduardo Escobar? A youngish team-controlled starter like Kyle Gibson? A defensively challenged catcher/DH like Josmil Pinto? (Ooh, sorry, Jesus Montero. You have one of those, don't you?)  Bring me the head of Michael Saunders, I say, so long as it is still attached to the rest of him.