By Sam Bush
The Phils are a physical exam away from a one-year deal with free-agent outfielder Michael Saunders, who made the American League All-Star team last season with the Blue Jays.
MLB Network Insider Ken Rosenthal reported Saunders will make $9 million in 2017 with an option worth $11 million, although it can jump to $14 million with escalators. It includes a $1 million buyout.
Saunders hit .253 with 32 doubles, three triples, 24 home runs, 57 RBIs and an .815 OPS last season, although he hit .149 with a .454 OPS in 75 plate appearances in September. Still, the 30-year-old’s .815 OPS would have been the highest on the Phillies among qualified hitters.
Saunders played mostly left field with the Blue Jays, but he is expected to be the Phillies’ right fielder on opening day, with Howie Kendrick in left and Odubel Herrera in center. He told Canada’s Sportsnet last week that he preferred to stay with Toronto, but the Blue Jays are close to re-signing free-agent outfielder Jose Bautista, so Saunders’ chances to remain in Toronto had diminished.
Saunders’ arrival has implications for the other Phillies outfielders in camp. Rookie Roman Quinn had been the favorite to become the opening day right fielder, but he now could start the season in Triple-A Lehigh Valley, where he would play every day.
The Phillies remain high on Quinn, so they believe keeping him on the big league bench with limited playing opportunities would be detrimental to his development.
“I actually haven’t been following it,” Quinn told MLB.com yesterday when asked about the Saunders’ news and how it could affect his early-season opportunity with the Phillies. “I can control what I can control. I’m just going to go out there, give it my all and see what happens from there.”