The Phillies fished their wish when they signed free-agent outfielder Michael Saunders to a one-year, $9 million deal with a 2018 club option on Monday. All offseason we’ve heard General Manager Matt Klentak and Manager Pete Mackanin – quite loudly – lament about the need for another bat, specifically a left-handed bat. And they got it.
Saunders will slide in nicely to the middle of a right-heavy lineup. Last season he hit .253/.338/.478 with 24 home runs and 57 RBI, largely fueled by his strong first half. He batted just .178 in the second half, struggling after appearing in his first All-Star Game.
The best part about the addition of Saunders is that it doesn’t derail the Phillies’ long-term plans. He’s a low-risk signing that helps the team in the present while not stunting any prospect growth.
With that being said, Mackanin still has a lot to figure out come spring training. Before the signing, young outfielders Roman Quinn and Aaron Altherr were thought to be shoe-ins to crack the opening day roster. Quinn would have started in right field with Howie Kendrick starting in left and Odubel Herrera locked down in center. Altherr would have come off the bench.
Saunders, if healthy, is most likely going to be an everyday corner outfielder. So where does that leave Quinn and Altherr?
Not much will change for Altherr. Prior to the Saunders signing he was slated to be the fourth outfielder and is still expected to make the 25-man roster in that role. For Quinn, he will likely start the season in triple A, which may come as a disappointment for the 23-year-old, but he is likely very much in the Phillies’ plans. Instead of riding the bench, he will get the playing time needed to further his development (and show he can stay healthy for a considerable length of time).
Nothing is set in stone, however. You may recall the trade rumors circulating about Cesar Hernandez at the beginning of the offseason, which escalated once the Phils acquired Kendrick in a trade that sent Darin Ruf and Darnell Sweeney to the Dodgers.
Klentak now has the added flexibility to put Kendrick at second base if a worthy deal comes across his desk. Saunders would stay in a corner, Herrera in center, and Quinn in the opposite corner with Altherr as the fourth outfielder.
No matter which direction the team takes, there’s no denying that the signing of Saunders – and all of Klentak’s moves this offseason – have given the Phils the opportunity to improve the team both this season and beyond.