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Trade Values: Joe Saunders


While most of the attention has been focused on the Pirates’ pursuit of a hitter, there may also be need for a pitcher to bolster a rotation that may be starting to leak a little water.  Last weekend, the Pirates were one of four teams rumored to be in on Joe Saunders, as per Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic.

The left-handed Saunders has never overly impressed me, but he has been a reliable innings eater with both the Angels and the Diamondbacks.  He has taken the hill at least 31 times each of the past 4 years and logged 186 to 212 innings over that time span.  He’s a lefty with an 89 mph fastball, 75 mph curve, and an 80 mph change.  I’ve always felt that Saunders was just a half-step below Paul Maholm in terms of overall stuff, for comparison.

After being non-tendered by the Diamondbacks last offseason, as he was ready to go for his 3rd year of arbitration, the two sides came to terms on a 1 year, $6M deal for 2012 (a modest increase of $500,000 from his previous year).  So far this year, Saunders is off to a nice start with a 3.44 ERA/4.00 FIP/4.35 xFIP slash line, good for 1.1 WAR.  All three of those marks are less than the career averages for the 31-year old pitcher, so there may be some regression.

In his previous 4 seasons, Saunders has put up a 6.6 WAR total for a 1.65 WAR average/season.  Let’s be generous and say that Saunders will finish with a 2.0 WAR season in 2012 for the purposes of this trade analysis.  Also, we’ll assume $3M would remain on his contract by the time of a possible trade.  Saunders has no buyout or option for 2013.

Year Salary WAR FA Value Surplus Value
2012 $3,000,000 0.9 $4,500,000 $1,500,000

Saunders has minimal surplus value to the Diamondbacks, so the return for him would be rather small.  A relief pitching prospect or low level hitter of not much note would suffice.

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