The Orioles have been connected to outfielder Michael Saunders for several years, and in a season in which many long-rumored interests have come to fruition — see Andrew Cashner and Colby Rasmus — the team has now also added Saunders on a minor league contract, the club announced Monday.
Saunders, 31, who will report to Triple-A Norfolk, will add left-handed-hitting outfield depth, but the Orioles could see him potentially helping elsewhere.
“Michael Saunders is a proven hitter who plays outfield and can fill in at first base and designated hitter,” Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette said in a text message Monday morning. “His hitting record at Camden Yards is also interesting.”
Saunders’ 10 homers in 23 career games at Camden Yards are his most in any opposing ballpark, and he has a .310/.379/.750 hitting line in 95 plate appearances at the park.
He is a career .232/.305/.397 hitter in parts of nine major league seasons with the Seattle Mariners, Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies.
The Orioles will be Saunders’ third team since the beginning of spring training. The Pirates signed him in February, but he was given his release 48 hours later after Pittsburgh acquired Corey Dickerson in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays.
He then signed with the Royals, and had a solid spring with Kansas City — hitting .275/.356/.350 in 16 Cactus League games — but was granted his release by the Royals after exercising an opt-out clause in his contract if he didn’t make the major league club.
Now opening the season at Norfolk, Saunders joins a roster that includes left-handed-hitting outfielders Alex Presley, DJ Stewart and Jaycob Brugman.
The signing of Saunders also further clutters a minor league outfield mix that has created a logjam for prospects such as Austin Hays and switch hitter Cedric Mullins, both of whom are beginning the season in Double-A Bowie.