Seattle sends Saunders to Toronto for Happ
SEATTLE (AP) The Toronto Blue Jays hope they found their starting left fielder in Michael Saunders, while the Seattle Mariners hope J.A. Happ will be another left-hander for their strong starting rotation.
The Mariners sent Saunders to the Blue Jays on Wednesday in exchange for Happ, with the trade filling needs for both clubs. The Mariners were hoping to add another arm for their pitching staff while the Blue Jays got a potential replacement for free agent Melky Cabrera in their outfield.
''We've been talking about Saunders on-and-off for years at various times. (Seattle GM) Jack (Zduriencik) and I have talked a ton and we could just never come close to an agreement,'' Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos said. ''We think there's upside with the bat. He's already a pretty good offensive player and we love the fact that we can have that plus a defensive guy on a corner as well.''
Anthopoulos said he did not believe the Blue Jays could solve their left field situation through free agency, a hint that Cabrera's days are likely done in Toronto. Even with the addition of Saunders, the Blue Jays have only four outfielders on their 40-man roster.
Saunders was the second-longest tenured member of the Mariners organization - trailing only Felix Hernandez - but was never able to reach his potential in Seattle. Most of that was due to injuries. Just about the time Saunders would show those flashes, especially with the bat, he would land on the disabled list.
Saunders never played more than 139 games with Seattle, that coming in 2012. Saunders hit .273 with eight home runs and 34 RBIs last season in 78 games but twice had stints on the disabled list. He'll become the 22nd Canadian player in Blue Jays history.
Asked if there had been a falling out with Saunders, Zduriencik said this move was made just to add another pitcher for the rotation.
''I just think we were in a position where we needed to add a starting pitcher,'' Zduriencik said. ''And I think when you looked at all your trade option possibilities, and then you look at the free agent market ... I think where we ended up because of this trade it satisfied exactly what we were looking for.''
Happ could take the spot in Seattle's rotation held last season by veteran Chris Young, who was the AL comeback player of the year but is a free agent. Happ, 32, appeared in 30 games and made 26 starts for the Blue Jays last season. He went 11-11 with a 4.22 ERA in 158 innings.
Zduriencik said the Happ acquisition makes it ''a little more difficult'' for Young to potentially return.
''I feel like I've been pitching in some kind of difficult parks to pitch in at times,'' Happ said. ''I definitely welcome this change. I think it will be good.''
AP freelancer Ian Harrison in Toronto contributed to this report.