Seattle Mariners Add Joe Saunders To Their Rotation

By Tyler Brett
Joy R. Absalon – USA TODAY Sports

The Seattle Mariners made a huge move yesterday when they signed ace Felix Hernandez to a five-year extension, locking up the top of their rotation for the foreseeable future. However, that wasn’t the only rotation news out of Seattle on Thursday. The team announced a one-year deal, pending a physical, with free agent left-hander Joe Saunders, effectively rounding out their starting rotation for 2013.

Saunders will essentially fill the role of Jason Vargas that was opened up when Seattle traded the long-time Seattle starter to the Los Angeles Angels for the bat of Kendrys Morales. The 31-year old Saunders will enter his eighth major-league season with Seattle in 2013 after splitting time last season between the Arizona Diamonbacks and Baltimore Orioles, where he was traded late last season.

The lefty started 28 games total last season, posting an ERA of 4.07 with a 1.34 WHIP while posting a 9-13 record. Saunders holds a career ERA of 4.15 and WHIP of 1.37 with an all-time record of 78-65. He’s posted over 100 strikeouts a season every year since 2008 and has a career strikeout to walk ratio of 1.87. He makes his return to the AL West for the first time since being traded from the Angels to the Diamondbacks in 2010.

Saunders looks to slot as the M’s No. 2 starter behind Hernandez to start the year. The rest of the rotation looks to shake out with Hisashi Iwakuma, Erasmo Ramirez and Blake Beavan taking the hill. The Mariners have plenty of other options, however, to work through before Opening Day.

Jeremy Bonderman will be in camp on a minor league deal, though he won’t likely be ready for the start of the season after Tommy John surgery last spring. Hector Noesi looks to regain his form and bounce back after a bad showing in 2012. Seattle also has prospects like Brandon Maurer, James Paxton and Danny Hultzen who appear ready to push for a big league audition.

The team also isn’t ruling out adding another arm from outside the organization if the need arises. The team has been linked to Detroit Tigers‘ right-hander Rick Porcello and Houston Astros‘ righty Bud Norris on the trading block and the team has also been attending throwing sessions by some veterans this winter, including right-hander Jon Garland.

Saunders, however, looks to be a lock in the rotation as he addresses the team’s need for a left-handed starter in the rotation. Will he prove to be an upgrade over Vargas in the 1-2 punch at the top of the M’s rotation?

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