The Seattle Mariners signed starter Joe Saunders to a one-year deal that could be worth up to $16.5 million over a two-year span if he meets his incentives. Fans of the Mariners are excited to have another solid starter in the rotation, but exactly how important is Saunders to the success of the team in 2013?
Seattle will be looking to put Saunders at either the No. 2 or No. 3 spot in the starting rotation behind ace Felix Hernandez and fellow starter Hisashi Iwakuma. Spring training will decide if Saunders or Iwakuma sit at the two spot while the other will take the third. Regardless, Saunders will bring veteran experience to the rotation that the Mariners will need if they want to compete in the American League West this season.
The 31-year-old is not going to strike out many batters and he will definitely surrender some home runs throughout the year. However, he will also be a durable pitcher that the Mariners can count on to make his starts.
Saunders began the 2012 season with the Arizona Diamondbacks, but was traded to the Baltimore Orioles in late August. He helped Baltimore go on an incredible tear to reach the postseason for the first time since 1997. Saunders pitched far better with the Orioles than he did with the Diamondbacks, as he posted a 3-3 record with a 3.63 earned run average in 44 2/3 innings with the team. More importantly, he handled the postseason with ease as he went 1-0 and surrendered only two earned runs against the two top offenses in the AL last season – Texas Rangers and New York Yankees.
His mental toughness, ability to grind out innings, veteran presence in the clubhouse and overall confidence on the mound in tight spots is why he is going to be a huge asset for the Mariners in 2013. Several teams realized how big of an attribute he would have been for their organization but Saunders decided on Seattle because he believes the organization is going places fast.
Even though there are a couple of question marks on who is going to fill out the rest of the rotation, it is comforting to know that the Mariners have a few reliable starters for a change.