Trade Values: Joe Saunders

While most of the attention has been focused on the Pirates’ pursuit of a hitter, there may also be need for a pitcher to bolster a rotation that may be starting to leak a little water.  Last weekend, the Pirates were one of four teams rumored to be in on Joe Saunders, as per Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic.

The left-handed Saunders has never overly impressed me, but he has been a reliable innings eater with both the Angels and the Diamondbacks.  He has taken the hill at least 31 times each of the past 4 years and logged 186 to 212 innings over that time span.  He’s a lefty with an 89 mph fastball, 75 mph curve, and an 80 mph change.  I’ve always felt that Saunders was just a half-step below Paul Maholm in terms of overall stuff, for comparison.

After being non-tendered by the Diamondbacks last offseason, as he was ready to go for his 3rd year of arbitration, the two sides came to terms on a 1 year, $6M deal for 2012 (a modest increase of $500,000 from his previous year).  So far this year, Saunders is off to a nice start with a 3.44 ERA/4.00 FIP/4.35 xFIP slash line, good for 1.1 WAR.  All three of those marks are less than the career averages for the 31-year old pitcher, so there may be some regression.

In his previous 4 seasons, Saunders has put up a 6.6 WAR total for a 1.65 WAR average/season.  Let’s be generous and say that Saunders will finish with a 2.0 WAR season in 2012 for the purposes of this trade analysis.  Also, we’ll assume $3M would remain on his contract by the time of a possible trade.  Saunders has no buyout or option for 2013.

Year Salary WAR FA Value Surplus Value
2012 $3,000,000 0.9 $4,500,000 $1,500,000

Saunders has minimal surplus value to the Diamondbacks, so the return for him would be rather small.  A relief pitching prospect or low level hitter of not much note would suffice.

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  • salempirate

    Kevin, Saunders would be okay, just to eat innings and just for this season, probably.
    But, to turn the tables, and there was quite a bit of talk about trading him to obtain Headley, what is Pedro’s value?

    • Scott BUCN Klima

      Pedro is staying a Pirate for the rest of the year, 100% guarantee.

      Saunders seems like a smart pickup assuming the low price tag. Why not trade someone like Dan Gamache or Gift Ngoepe to get him, if possible. Same goes for Youkilis. Headley will obviously cost us something decent.

    • Kevin_Creagh

      Pedro’s value is a tough one to get a handle on because his career is still young and evolving before us. He seems to be in the Mark Reynolds vein of hitting, but with much better defense.
      I think Pedro can be a 3.5 to 4 WAR at 3B. That probably drops to 2.5 if he goes to 1B. As Scott says below, though, he’s not going anywhere this season.

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