Former Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Michael Saunders is on the verge of finalizing a one-year, $9 million deal (plus a team option for $11 million) with the Philadelphia Phillies. But before the native Canadian agreed to terms with the Phils, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick said he had multiple suitors — including the Milwaukee Brewers.
Saunders hit .253/.338/.478 for the Jays last year, with 24 home runs and 32 doubles and putting up 1.4 fWAR/1.3 bWAR. With Saunders now departing, Toronto is reportedly close to bringing Jose Bautista back into the fold.
Considering the outfield is one of the deepest parts of the Brewers’ system, the interest in Saunders is a little puzzling. Ryan Braun, Keon Broxton and Domingo Santana seem fairly set as the starting trio, with Kirk Nieuwenheis acting as the fourth outfielder and Lewis Brinson being expected sometime in 2017 (with Brett Phillips and Ryan Cordell possibly soon following).
Saunders possibly could have been an interesting fourth outfielder piece, but Nieuwenheis can play all three positions — Saunders is better suited to the corners — and costs less. At the same time, Captain Kirk’s deal is a split one, meaning he could still end up in the minors at a significantly lower rate than if he’s in the majors. In the end, Saunders’ market likely progressed past a point the Brewers were comfortable with, and the interest ended there.
There’s another way to look at the rumored interest, despite the potential outfield logjam: GM David Stearns could elect to use some of those outfield prospects to improve other parts of the team in the near future as the Brewers inch closer to possible playoff contention. Now may not be the right time, but it’s something to consider this summer if the team is on the edge of the wildcard race.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs