D-backs bring back Saunders on one-year deal
PHOENIX — The Diamondbacks continued to rebuild with
the past Tuesday, adding another new/old face to the group that will attempt to
defend its 2011 NL West championship.
With the re-signing of left-hander Joe Saunders to a one-year, $6 million
contract, the D-backs restocked their rotation for a repeat run about six weeks
after it appeared that Saunders’ time with the team was over. Saunders, who was
12-13 with a 3.69 ERA last season, made a $5.25 million in 2011.
Saunders was not offered a contract at the early December deadline for
arbitration-eligible players, making him a free agent. The D-backs still expressed
an interest in having Saunders back, and after he was unable to find a multiyear
deal in the marketplace, he rejoined the D-backs with the one-year deal.
Saunders’ inclusion gives the D-backs perhaps the deepest starting rotation in
a division that prides itself on being pitching-heavy. Arizona’s rotation appears
at least on a par San Francisco’s, which is headed by two-time NL Cy Young
winter Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner.
Four of the D-backs’ five projected starters – Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson,
Trevor Cahill and Saunders — have thrown at least 200 innings in a season, with
Kennedy (222), Hudson (222), Cahill (207 2/3) and Saunders (212) all reaching
career highs in 2011. Josh Collmenter, the other starter, pitched 154 1/3
innings in his rookie season after joining the rotation in May.
Plus, Kennedy finished fourth in the NL Cy Young Award
balloting last season.
Saunders is the sixth free agent the D-backs have re-signed, joining Aaron
Hill, Willie Bloomquist, Henry Blanco, Lyle Overbay and John McDonald. All were
contributors to the D-backs’ 29-game turnaround to 94-68.
The newcomers are left fielder Jason Kubel, Cahill and setup men Takashi Saito
and Craig Breslow.
The addition of Saunders takes any pressure off the D-backs to rush any of
their top pitching prospects. Wade Miley, who made eight starts down the
stretch last season, was penciled in as the No. 5 starter, but it was expected
that Tyler Skaggs, Trevor Bauer, Patrick Corbin and Charles Brewer would be
given an opportunity to win that spot.
Miley was the only one of that group who had pitched above the Double A level,
but Saunders’ re-signing makes it appear the D-backs are content to let their
young pitchers take all the time they need. If any of the young cadre breaks
out next season, the D-backs could move a veteran pitcher — Saunders, for
example — to acquire a piece down the stretch. The D-backs traded Kelly Johnson
for Hill and McDonald in August, a deal that helped take the D-backs over the
Saunders recovered from an 0-5 start last season to post solid numbers. He made
12 consecutive appearances of at least six innings, the second longest streak
on the team to Hudson’s 13, and was credited with 20 quality starts, tied for
17th in the NL. His ERA and ratio of hits/walks per innings were the second lowest
of his career in his first full season in the NL.