Diamondbacks Finalize Rotation

Jeff SummersCorrespondent IJanuary 18, 2012

Ever have one of those days that you feel like you are completely in touch with your psychic powers and that you are a pair of tights and a cape away from declaring yourself as a super hero? That’s kind of how I was feeling after yesterday.

In the morning I sat down and penned a blog entry where I talked about the Arizona Diamondbacks interest in adding another veteran starting pitcher to the rotation. I briefly went over the various candidates that could fulfill the Diamondbacks needs. Among those candidates were previous Diamondbacks starter Joe Saunders.

While I would love to see Saunders back in a Diamondbacks uniform and thought that he represented the best fit for Arizona I was pragmatic in his chances. At two different points in time Saunders and the Diamondbacks showed interest in each other but it was reported that the two were substantially apart in what both salary and number of years on the contract.

It was a foregone conclusion that Saunders was looking for a two or three-year deal north of $8 million a year while the Diamondbacks wanted a short-term deal to allow their young pitching prospects an opportunity to be on the roster over the next two seasons.

In December the Diamondbacks were said to offer Saunders a two-year deal for approximately $12 million. Saunders countered with a three-year deal for $27 million. The Diamondbacks decided to go a different direction and non-tendered Saunders making him a free agent.

Over the winter Saunders was linked to teams such as the Baltimore Orioles and the Washington Nationals. Despite that he continued to train at Salt River Fields at the Diamondbacks facility. After the first of the year it looked as though there was no possibility of the two sides striking a deal. The Saunders era in Arizona seemed to be over.

Arizona went on to make a trade for Trevor Cahill with Oakland and then seemingly finalized their roster signing free agent outfielder Jason Kubel. Despite what looked like a completed roster, General Manager Kevin Towers kept searching for creative ways to tweak the roster making the Diamondbacks a better team.

Towers and representatives for Saunders reached out with the player again hinting he would really like to play for Arizona. Despite being at the limit for salary for 2012, Towers talked to General Partner Ken Kendrick and CEO Derrick Hall who approved of the salary overage and Saunders was signed to a one-year deal.

On the surface this looked like very poor negotiating on Saunders part. He went from declining a 2-year contract at $12 million to agreeing to one year at that rate. Perhaps there is something to be said for the dedication and loyalty of Joe Saunders.

Perhaps he didn’t find the free agent market as eager for his services as he expected but he did have more attractive offers with other clubs. Instead of personifying the typical stereotype of a mercenary player only interested in the money Saunders went a different route.

He chose to take less money for a shorter period of time so that he could attempt to take this team to the next stage reaching the league championship series or the World Series. There’s also the fact that Saunders and his wife recently purchased a home in Arizona and this way he can stay closer to home and his family.

It is reminiscent of another player who accepted less to stay closer to home. In the fall of 1997 then Cleveland Indians third baseman Matt Williams requested a trade from a team that was just short of winning the World Series to join an expansion team because he wanted to be closer to his children.

Perhaps this will work out for Saunders as it did for Williams over a decade before. Maybe this 2012 team will be like its 2001 counterparts and bring Arizona its second World Championship. If that happens this decision by Saunders will look like one of pure genius.