Earlier in the week, Cliff Corcoran of Sports Illustrated.CNN.com referenced some of the better Starting Pitching options who are left on the Free Agent market, and later discussed which players would fit best where and why. So despite the fact that the Free Agent market for Starting Pitchers has dwindled lately, there are still some arms left for the Padres to consider. Robert has mentioned how Cameron Maybin was a fan of bringing Edwin Jackson to San Diego, and Kevin discussed the possibility of Aaron Harang making a return to the Friars. In addition to Jackson and Harang, Joe Saunders, one of numerous options Victor alluded to a few weeks ago, also remains unsigned, and I believe that the veteran Left-Hander might be a viable choice for the Padres to add to their rotation at this juncture.
For a team looking for some consistent performances and an Innings-eater at the back-end of their rotation, Saunders is a player who immediately comes to mind. Over the last two years, Saunders has pitched 386.2 Innings and started 51 regular season games (212.0 & 33 in 2011, 174.2 & 28 in 2012). While the 31 year-old’s 21-26 record during said time frame (3.69 ERA in 2011, 4.07 ERA in 2012) is not the most stellar, Saunders could provide some stability on the back end of San Diego’s rotation if he can go over 180.0 Innings next year.
Despite the fact that the fences will be moved in at Petco Park this year, it is by no means a band-box, hitter-friendly establishment. With this in mind, a fly-ball Pitcher like Saunders would be at an immense advantage in a place like Petco, and would definitely feel at ease with the speedy Maybin patrolling the Outfield grass in a venue where balls are less likely to fly out of the park than most other if not all stadiums in the League. Veteran Pitchers have enjoyed a fair amount of mid-career successes with the Padres over the last few years, and Saunders could be primed to perform well if he is given the chance to start half of his games at Petco.
In terms of his overall “signability,” Saunders made $6 million dollars last season, and it would likely take a contract near that level or above to bring the veteran to San Diego for one to two seasons. While the Friars do not possess particularly deep pockets, they might want to consider the veteran Starter if he does not receive any particularly lucrative offers from Baltimore or elsewhere around the League. Remember, San Diego will be without Cory Luebke and Joe Wieland for extended periods during this season, and Casey Kelly and Robbie Erlin could definitely use more Innings at the Triple-A level. Although Saunders might not figure into San Diego’s long-term rebuilding plans, the Padres would be wise to consider a one to two year stop-gap option in their rotation. Plus, if Saunders pitches well for the Friars and the team struggles into July, San Diego could trade him to a contending team in need of Starting depth.
At least in my opinion, it could not hurt the Padres to look for another Starter to sign and subsequently bring to Peoria to compete for a spot in the Rotation in 2013. Whether or not Saunders will be an option for the organization during the rest of this offseason has yet to be determined. Yet with the Free Agent market dwindling in terms of veteran Starting Pitchers still available, the Padres might want to make a decision on Saunders or a guy like Jackson sooner as opposed to later. And hey, if the Padres are comfortable with the selection of Starters they have at their disposal for next season, I will stand by them 100% and hope that Tyson Ross, Anthony Bass, or any of the Minor Leaguers who will be given chances to shine can come through for the franchise.
All I hope is that the Padres at least consider the option of adding one more veteran arm to their Starting Rotation.
Stats & Contract Information Courtesy of: Baseball Reference