Joe Saunders’ offseason has been spent golfing, working out, entertaining at his Arizona home and being a father to his 2-year-old and 4-year-old girls.
He can’t say he hasn’t thought about where he’ll be reporting to spring training in six weeks, but the free agent knows he’ll be pitching somewhere. And that’s fine for now.
“I’m a pretty patient kind of guy. I’ve always been that kind of guy, to really wait and see how it all plays out,” said Saunders, who was 3-3 with a 3.63 ERA in seven regular season starts with the Orioles after being acquired from Arizona in August. “First and foremost, I’d like to come back to Baltimore and do some great things in 2013. But, from my standpoint, my hands are kind of tied. I pay my agent to do his job and hopefully it all works out.”
Saunders said he checks in with his representation occasionally, and he has heard his name linked with several clubs. What’s most important to him, he said, is that he goes to a team that has a chance to win now and in the future.
Besides the Orioles, the Los Angeles Angels, New York Mets, Minnesota Twins and Seattle Mariners are among the clubs that reportedly have kicked Saunders’ tires this winter.
“Obviously, I’d like to go to a contender,” said Saunders, who allowed just two runs in two postseason starts for the Orioles in 2012. “That’s what I want to do. That would be the most important thing, to compete for a division title and get another playoff burst like we did in 2012.”
Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter have stated publicly that they would like to bring back Saunders. But, according to an industry source, the Orioles appear reluctant to give Saunders a three-year deal.
Another industry source said Saunders’ representatives were initially seeking a four-year contract during the winter meetings in December.
Considering that 34-year-old Jeremy Guthrie (55-77, lifetime 4.28 ERA) signed a three-year, $25 million deal to stay with the Kansas City Royals and 29-year-old Edwin Jackson (70-71, 4.40 ERA) agreed to a four-year, $52 million contract with the Chicago Cubs this offseason, the 31-year-old Saunders (78-65, 4.15 ERA) has a strong case for a deal beyond two years. Especially since Saunders is a left-hander with postseason success on his resume.
“Whether it is two, three, four, five six, seven years, players can’t really control that. That’s up to the individual teams whether they go that route,” Saunders said. “Every player that hits free agency would like to sign with a team and build on that. That’s why players want multi years. You can establish yourself in the community. It’s hard for us to sign one-year deals and, community-wise, get completely involved. Players obviously like that consistency, and [multi-year deals] give players some consistency. You know where you are going to go and what you are going to do.”
Much has been made about Saunders’ Northern Virginia roots and the pleasure he derived last season pitching at Camden Yards in front of friends and family. That’s important, he said, but he lives in Arizona in the offseason and his extended family can travel to see him pitch.
“It’s nice to be able to go back home and be close to family,” he said. “But, honestly, it’s nice that your family has the means to come out and see you wherever you may end up.”
If the Orioles continue to be the leading contender for his services, it’s because of the experience he had in 2012 with Showalter, pitching coach Rick Adair and his teammates.
“I’d love to come back to Baltimore. I had a blast,” he said. “We had a great run last year and I’d love to try and repeat that for 2013.”
For now, though, he said he’ll just wait for the right situation. Meanwhile, he’s been working out five days a week in Arizona and has been throwing 120 feet long toss in anticipation for spring training.
“I’m just trying to get ready for the season, making sure my body is in good shape, my arm is in good shape,” he said. “I’m excited to get started — wherever that may be.”