Phillies finalize deal with outfielder Michael Saunders

PHILADELPHIA (AP) The Philadelphia Phillies and outfielder Michael Saunders have finalized a $9 million, one-year contract.

Saunders will earn $8 million this season, and the Phillies have a 2018 option worth $10.5 million with a $1 million buyout.

The option price could increase by $2.5 million: $500,000 each for making the All-Star team and reaching 560 plate appearances, and $750,000 apiece for finishing among the top 10 in MVP voting and reaching 600 plate appearances.

A 2016 AL All-Star with Toronto, Saunders hit a career-best 24 homers and batted .253 with 57 RBIs last season.

To make room on the 40-man roster, the Phillies designated right-hander Severino Gonzalez for assignment. Gonzalez was 1-2 with a 5.60 ERA in 27 appearances, including 12 starts last year.

The left-handed hitting Saunders gives the Phillies a much-needed power threat at a spot they sorely lacked it. Peter Bourjos led Philadelphia's corner outfielders with only five homers last year.

Saunders is projected to start in right field. The Phillies also acquired Howie Kendrick from the Dodgers earlier in the offseason to play left field. Centerfielder Odubel Herrera, an All-Star last season, signed a $30.5 million, five-year contract in December.

Saunders is coming off a difficult second half. He batted .178 with eight homers and 15 RBIs after the All-Star break.

The 30-year-old Saunders and 33-year-old Kendrick allow prospects Roman Quinn and Nick Williams more time to develop in the minors. Quinn hit .263 (15 for 57) in 15 games with the Phillies, but hasn't played at Triple-A yet. Williams, one of several players acquired from Texas for Cole Hamels, hit .258 with 13 homers in his first season in Triple-A in 2016.

''I think it's going to be good for the young hitters,'' manager Pete Mackanin said. ''We won't feel like we have to push them. Hopefully, they're going to push us to force the issue. That's a great position to be in. Let's make sure they're ready so they stay here.''

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Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AP-RobMaaddi

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