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February 7, 2013 at 5:53 PM

Mariners reportedly agree to one-year deal with pitcher Joe Saunders

The Mariners have reportedly reached a deal with Joe Saunders, who pitched for the Diamondbacks and Orioles last season after starting career in Anaheim. Photo Credit: AP

The Mariners look to have found the replacement for Jason Vargas, reportedly agreeing to a one-year deal with free-agent pitcher Joe Saunders pending a physical. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported the move.

Saunders, as we wrote last week, fills a left-handed need in Seattle’s rotation with a pitcher similar to Vargas in terms of how he gets his outs. Both give up their share of flyballs and struck out a mediocre total of about 5.8 batters per nine innings apiece in 2012.

With the fences coming in at Safeco Field, we’ll see how the dimensions impact Saunders, who got tagged for a .302 average and .849 OPS by right-handed hitters last year. Safeco Field used to help Vargas by knocking down some of his flyballs, especially those hit by right-handed batters.

Interestingly enough, as colleague  Larry Stone points out, Saunders is 6-0 with a 2.13 ERA lifetime at Safeco Field. The downside to that, of course, is that he was beating up on some bad Mariners teams with a strong Angels squad behind him helping him do it.

So, like I said, we’ll see.

The upside to his signing is that it only took a one-year commitment. Part of my concern about Saunders last week is that he’d been seeking a two-year deal and I didn’t see the point in the M’s committing to that when they have a bunch of young starters poised to enter the big leagues over the next 12 months. So now, that concern is removed.

We don’t have a money figure yet, but Saunders apparently turned down a two-year, $15-million deal already so you have to think he’ll be inking with Seattle for at least the $8.5 million Vargas just got in arbitration from the Angels. Maybe more.

Still, he knows how to pitch in Anaheim from all his years there and has experience in the AL West. He also is capable, when healthy, of delivering close to the 200-plus innings Vargas delivered in 2012. That latter part was very important because you can’t pick those innings up with some of the young guys the Mariners have in Class AAA and AA — who would be good for only about 150 innings even if everything went perfectly with their inexperienced arms.

So, the Mariners got their experienced arm for only a one-year commitment and without giving anyone up.

They have a left-hander that was needed and have bridged some of their missing innings gap. All that’s needed now is to hope the new ballpark dimensions at Safeco Field don’t start messing with Saunders and his weak points. But otherwise, this was a deal that needed to be done.

Comments | More in Free agents | Topics: fences, Jack Zduriencik, jason vargas

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