The Case to Sign Joe Saunders, Seriously.


A strong bullpen goes beyond the eighth and ninth inning options. A key situation in the sixth inning may be the point where a game is decided. Who do you throw on the mound if Robinson Cano is coming up with the tying run on second? Preferably a lefty, and if that situation comes up again with another left handed hitter, repeat. 

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Right now the Angels look to have offseason addition Cesar Ramos as the only southpaw bullpen option. If the starting five maintain health and the rookies come through, Jose Alvarez or Hector Santiago could be viable options. If, however, the front office wishes to keep them stretched out in the minors or in the rotation, they could look to free agency to fill out the loogy role. Brian Helberg already wrote about the Angels need to fill the role. I conclude that an unlikely free agent should be pursued.

If you had mentioned that Joe Saunders should be a target for the Halos back in November, I’d have dismissed the idea. He is a starting pitcher who hasn’t sniffed a decent season since 2012. But, he has always been able to get lefties out. That brings up the other ingredient necessary for any good relief pitcher, you must be able to pitch when the stress is on. Saunders has only once in his career posted a Fangraphs Clutch rating below average, and that was all the way back in 2007.

Saunders has only once in his career posted a Fangraphs Clutch rating below average, and that was all the way back in 2007.

 This late in the season he would likely be available on a minor league deal with little risk involved. You could always see how spring training shakes out and fit him in accordingly. The upside of Saunders late in the game comes with his career 3.39 Strikeout to walk ratio against lefty hitters. They  hit him meagerly at a slash line of .241/.288/.329. Not bad when you need just one out late in the game during a high leverage situation. Even last year when he struggled mightily he managed to only allow lefties a slugging percentage of .288 to lefties and OPS against of .616. 

His best days came with the Angels, even making the All Star team in 2008. I still remember his tears when being interviewed after being traded to Arizona in the Dan Haren deal. A homecoming could help right his sinking ship and more importantly a shift to the bullpen would allow him to focus on his strength of pitching against same sided hitters. For the Angels this low risk move would add even further depth to one of the few positions where they are could use some more.

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