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December 3, 2014 at 3:06 PM

Mariners trade Michael Saunders to Blue Jays for pitcher J.A. Happ

Seattle Times file photo

Seattle Times file photo

Updated 8:20 p.m. 

In a move that grew increasingly more expected with each passing day of the offseason, the Seattle Mariners have parted ways with outfielder Michael Saunders.

On Wednesday, the team sent Saunders to the Blue Jays in exchange for left-handed starting pitcher J.A. Happ.

The trades ends the Mariners’ long relationship with the native of Victoria, B.C. Saunders had the second longest tenure with the organization. Only Felix Hernandez had been with the team longer.

“It’s a little bittersweet,” Saunders said.  “I was drafted at age 18and 10 years later I’m leaving. The organization, the city, the fanbase helped shaped me not only into the ballplayer, but the man I’ve become today. I’ve done a lot of interviews in the last few hours, I’m not sure I still have found the right words to express how I feel what Seattle and the Mariners organization and the fans mean to me.”

Saunders was  selected in the 11th round of the 2004 draft and came up through the organization. He made his major league debut in 2009. Since then, he’s played in a total of 553 big league games, hitting . 231 with a .685 OPS.

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However the relationship between Saunders and the Mariners grew a little strained at the end of the season over playing time and a comment made by general manager Jack Zduriencik at the end of the season.

Zduriencik said that had nothing to do with the move.

“No, I just think we were in a position where we needed to add a starting pitcher,” Zduriencik said. “Because of this trade, it satisfied exactly what we are looking for.”

Two separate lengthy stints on the disabled list limited him to 78 games this season. He was productive when healthy, hitting .273 with a .791 OPS

But as the offseason went on, it became clear that both sides were ready for a change.

The Mariners made the move, bringing in Happ, a veteran lefthander.  He went 11-11 with a 4.22 ERA in 26 starts and four relief appearances for the Blue Jays this past season. Here’s his career numbers.

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GM Alex Anthopolous told Toronto reporters that Saunders will be his everyday starting left fielder, likely meaning the organization has moved on from possibility of signing free agent Melky Cabrera.

The addition of Happ may give the Mariners some wiggle room and depth if they are intending to trade a starting pitcher for outfield help. It also means Cabrera – another fit – has one less suitor on the table.

A conspiracy theorist can look at it and say that with Nick Markakis signing with the Braves that Justin Upton is even more available.

 

 

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