MLB Free Agency: Mariners Reportedly Ink Joe Saunders to One-Year Deal

J.J. Matthews@@thajagepageContributor IIIFebruary 7, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 11:  Joe Saunders #48 of the Baltimore Orioles pitches during Game Four of the American League Division Series against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on October 11, 2012 in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

So apparently the Mariners front office was a little busy today.

Only hours after reporting that Seattle and Felix Hernandez had come to an agreement on a new seven-year, $175 million contract, Seattle has now reportedly also signed free-agent left-hander Joe Saunders to a one-year deal pending a physical.


Source: #Mariners are in agreement with Saunders on one-year contract, pending a physical.

— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) February 8, 2013


Saunders essentially will take the place of Jason Vargas in the rotation, who was traded this offseason to the Los Angeles Angels for Kendrys Morales. He will most likely slide in to the second or third slot in the rotation behind Felix and Hisashi Iwakuma, and potentially in front of Erasmo Ramirez and Blake Beavan. 

The signing of Saunders provides the Mariners with much-needed depth in the rotation as they await their young pitching prospects Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker, Brandon Maurer and James Paxton to arrive. This signing may also push Hector Noesi down to Triple-A where he can work on his arsenal after a very disappointing 2012 season.

Saunders, who was acquired by Baltimore halfway through the 2012 season from the Diamondbacks, played a crucial role for the Orioles in their run to the American League Divisional Series. In Baltimore, Saunders started seven games finishing 3-3 with a 3.63 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in the regular season. He was even better in the postseason for Baltimore, finishing 1-0 with a 1.59 ERA in 11.1 IP over two starts.

For his career, Saunders is 78-65 with a 4.15 ERA. His best season came in 2008 with the Los Angeles Angels where he finished 17-7 with a 3.41 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP. At this point in his career, the Mariners are not acquiring him to be a top-of-the-rotation pitcher, but instead to serve as a stop-gap and mentor for the young talent waiting in the minors.

All in all, this is a solid addition for the Mariners who can now feel more comfortable with their rotation heading into the 2013 season.