Phillies: Michael Saunders Deal Looks Bad in Comparison To Jose Bautista’s


Jose Bautista’s new deal with the Blue Jays and Michael Saunders’s with the Phillies are quite similar despite being different caliber of players.

I wasn’t a big fan of the Phillies recent acquisition of Michael Saunders and I’m even less a fan of it now that the details of Jose Bautista‘s new deal have emerged.

For me, the Saunders deal seems unnecessary. It’s another move made so that the Phillies can maybe have another piece to deal at the deadline. It’s nine million dollars for the hope that he has a decent three months to start 2017 and the organization can take advantage of some playoff-hopeful team and get back more prospects.

I never thought that much of Saunders to begin with. After all, we’re talking about a player who in eight years as a major-leaguer has managed a .238/.309/.425 slash line. That’s similar to what Freddy Galvis hit last year only it’s for an eight year stretch. Not very good.

Add to that the fact that Saunders is, at absolute best, an average defender. At least Galvis has Gold Glove caliber defense to offset his shortcomings at the plate.

The amount bothers me too. Nine million dollars? For a guy who made less than a third of that last year? Seriously. Was his season that good that he deserved a 300% raise? Sure, he was an All-Star, but at the end of the day it was a mediocre season.

Lastly, I think we have enough trade chips with Jeremy Hellickson, Howie Kendrick, Joaquin Benoit and whomever else is expendable to auction off come the trade deadline. For that matter, we’re doing okay on prospects as well. Of course, you can never have enough good prospects but that doesn’t mean that every single move you make during the offseason should be geared towards obtaining more.  Especially when the Phillies farm system was recently named tops in baseball by MiLB.  Their minor-league affiliates had the best combined winning percentage in all of baseball, showing just how good they were.

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Then Wednesday the Blue Jays announced their signing of Jose Bautista, a player the Phils were rumored to be pursuing. His deal is for one year, $18M and reportedly there’s an option next year for $17M. Saunders also has an option next year for $14M.

They could have spent an extra nine million this year, which was acheivable with their payroll flexibility, and then possibly an extra $3M next year for Bautista over Saunders.

Take a look at the players and their performance and see if that money means anything.

Last year Saunders had probably the best year of his career, slashing .253/.338/.478 with 24 home runs while Bautista had a down year but still hit .234/.366/.452 with 22 home runs.

A deeper look into the numbers reveals that one had something the young Phillies team desperately needs: a professional approach to at bats. Bautista walked at a 16.8% rate and struck out at a 19.9% clip while Saunders managed to walk significantly less at 10.6% and struck out an alarming 28.1%. There is a significant difference in those sets of numbers, a palpable difference. When looked at in context of what this Phillies team actually needs that difference is monumental.

Bautista actually had 41 less at bats than Saunders and in terms of numbers he would have had to strike out in every single one of them plus another 13 to equal Saunders total.

The numbers for their careers look even worse as a comparison.

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Bautista has been one of the best offensive players in the sport over the last six years. He has the fifth highest OPS over that span at .929, ahead of everyone in baseball except for Migueal Cabrera, Joey Votto, Mike Trout and David Ortiz. That’s the company Bautista is in.

Meanwhile, Saunders is down the list a bit at 172 with an .721 OPS, between Aaron Hill and Yonder Alonso. Not so great.

In terms of the advanced metrics it gets even worse. Bautista has literally been the best in baseball over the last six years in strikeouts-per-walk rate.

Bautista had a remarkable .97 K/BB, meaning that he walks nearly identically to how much he strikes out. Saunders has been one of the worst though at .38 meaning for about every walk he earns he strikes out three times. Some of the guys in the .38 K/BB area are Alexei Ramirez and Trevor Plouffe, who were both recently granted unconditional release from their teams..

Over that six year span Bautista has put up 33.8 fWAR and Saunders has 7.3. Clearly there’s a massive difference in the quality of player here.

And if mid-season trades are the Phillies game then there’s a pretty good chance that come July 31 Jose Bautista is going to net you a lot more prospects of higher quality than Michael Saunders.

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Look, I like what the Phillies are doing. I like their course of action to this point. I just happen to think that Michael Saunders at $9M is superfluous to the cause. I think that they could have either not brought Saunders aboard or, if they felt they needed another piece, brought Bautista in instead. And as previously stated, in the context of what the Phillies need in terms of “lead by example” it’s Bautista 100% of the time, every time.