The Royals have signed 2016 All-Star Michael Saunders to a minor league contract with an invitation to major league spring training.
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
SURPRISE, Ariz. — Former All-Star outfielder Michael Saunders has ended his two-day stay with Pittsburgh, instead seeking a better chance to play with the Kansas City Royals.
Saunders arrived at the Royals’ camp on Saturday after signing a minor league contract. He will receive $1.5 million if he is put on the big league roster and could earn another $500,000 in performance bonuses.
The Pirates had signed Saunders to a minor league contract Wednesday and he reported to their spring training complex in Bradenton, Florida. When Pittsburgh acquired outfielder Corey Dickerson in a trade with Tampa Bay on Thursday, Saunders was given his release to pursue other opportunities. The Royals promptly picked up the 31-year-old.
Saunders hit a combined .202 last season with the Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies, and Toronto released him after the season. He is a career .232 hitter in 775 major league games over nine seasons, the first six with Seattle.
The Kansas City outfield remains in a state of flux with center fielder Lorenzo Cain leaving to sign with the Milwaukee Brewers. Melky Cabrera, who played 54 games in the outfield last season, remains an unsigned free agent.
The Royals’ starting outfield Saturday for their first spring training game against the Los Angeles Dodgers had five-time Gold Glove left fielder Alex Gordon in center, flanked by Jorge Soler in left and Jorge Bonifacio in right.
Saunders hit 24 home runs and 32 doubles with a career-high .478 slugging percentage with the Blue Jays in 2016, when he was an All-Star.
“We thought it was important for our outfield depth to sign him,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said. “He’s a left-handed bat. We’re pretty right-handed right now. He was an All-Star two years ago, and it is just an opportunity to add to our depth.”
Gordon was the lone left-handed batter in the Royals’ lineup for their exhibition opener. The Royals are bereft of left-handed hitters with Eric Hosmer signing with San Diego, Brandon Moss traded to Oakland and Mike Moustakas still a free agent and unlikely to return.