The Toronto Blue Jays have acquired outfielder Michael Saunders from the Seattle Mariners for left-handed starting pitcher J.A. Happ, ESPN.com's Jayson Stark first reported Wednesday.
For the Blue Jays, the acquisition of Saunders represents just one of the many moves they made this offseason. They previously signed Russell Martin to a five-year deal and acquired Josh Donaldson from the Athletics for Brett Lawrie and prospects.
Toronto has shown that they want to contend next season and they made moves that will fill spots on their team that have needed help. The rotation and bullpen is still a question for the Blue Jays, but a combination of good performance of players they already have and bringing in other players will definitely help them improve those areas.
Saunders adds to a team that will likely lose fellow outfielders Melky Cabrera and Colby Rasmus to free agency. The Blue Jays' outfielders posted a 116 wRC+ in 2014, which ranked fifth in the major leagues last year. Saunders will even improve that mark.
In 263 plate appearances, the 28-year-old Saunders hit .273/.341/.450 with eight homers and 34 runs batted in. He missed a total of 68 games this season due to two injuries.
The Canadian native Saunders has only been able to surpass 500 plate appearances in a season just once, in 2012. Playing on the turf in Toronto isn't promising for his health, but he still is young and maybe a change of scenery is what he needs to help him stay healthy. Saunders is a former 11th round pick, but he has turned out well for the Mariners, producing when not injured.
The Mariners will receieve the 32-year-old Happ in return for Saunders. Their rotation, behind Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma, was among the best in the major leagues. Seattle had trouble getting enough offensive production behind their staff, so just getting Happ in return for Saunders may seem like a bit of a head-scratcher.
Happ posted a 11-11 record and a 4.22 ERA in 158 innings pitched last year. He posted a 133 to 51 strikeout-to-walk ratio, averaging 2.61 strikeouts per walk. He finished second in the National League Rookie of the Year voting in 2009 when he posted a 2.93 ERA in 166 innings for Philadelphia. Since, he has never come close to those numbers.
As for Happ's career at Safeco Park in Seattle, he has only made two starts there. He is 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA when pitching at Safeco. Safeco is a pitcher's park, and considering those numbers come in a small sample size, I'd expect Happ's overall numbers to improve when pitching in Safeco full-time.
This deal is an interesting one nonetheless, but both teams were able to bolster something that had already been a strength for them; for the Blue Jays it was their lineup and for the Mariners it was their pitching staff. The swap could pay off real well for both teams, as this could be one of the best deals of the offseason.