Starting Pitcher Joe Saunders Will Return to the Arizona Diamondbacks

Gil Imber@RefereeOrganistAnalyst IIJanuary 21, 2012

PHOENIX, AZ - AUGUST 11:  Starter Joe Saunders #34 of the Arizona Diamondbacks delivers a pitch in the first inning against the Houston Astros at Chase Field on August 11, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
Norm Hall/Getty Images

After several months of speculation leading to the assumption that starting pitcher Joe Saunders and the Arizona Diamondbacks had parted ways, the two sides have agreed on a one-year contract, much to everyone's surprise.

Under the terms of the unlikely deal, Saunders will earn $6 million for his services in 2012, rejoining a Diamondbacks team that had reshuffled their pitching staff in the wake of what initially appeared to be Saunders' departure.

Instead, Saunders joins returning cast members Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson and Josh Collmenter, while welcoming Wade Miley and Trevor Bauer from the minor leagues and Trevor Cahill from the Oakland Athletics.

The unlikely reunion of Arizona and Saunders is likely due to both parties' collective inability to secure greater deals with others than they were able to with one another.

When the Diamondbacks offered Saunders a two-year, $12 million contract in December, he rejected the offer, wishing to explore the free agent market.

Saunders looked from Baltimore to Boston, but was unable to find a team willing to offer him significantly more than two years for $12 million.

Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks traded prospects Jarrod Parker, Collin Cowgill and Ryan Cook to the Athletics for starter Cahill and veteran reliever Craig Breslow.

At the time, Cahill was seen as Plan B, the best option to replace Saunders, and join several rookies and prospects in the Diamondbacks starting rotation.

Instead, with Saunders back on the roster in 2012, GM Kevin Towers is hopeful the move will "allow our [prospects] more time in the minor leagues to develop. We don't think it's going to be too long before they're ready, and if there's an injury we've created more depth."

Now that Saunders is back in town, the Diamondbacks look to come out ahead—Cahill will become their No. 3 or No. 4 starter, and there is plenty of flexibility with Miley, Bauer and other D-Backs prospects.

In the end, both parties will come out as winners.

Saunders, who made $5.5 million in 2011, will still receive a pay raise of $500,000 and will enjoy remaining in Arizona.

For the Diamondbacks, this signing is a best-case scenario: Saunders' return maintains the gel of the starting rotation, while the club retains Saunders for practically what they offered him in December.

And if Arizona happens to consider a trade at some point in 2012, Saunders' presence affords the club more flexibility when it comes to starting pitching, whether Saunders is the one traded or not.