The Royals announced Friday that they have signed outfielder Michael Saunders to a minor-league deal. The news comes just two days after the Pirates announced that they had signed Saunders to a non-roster deal.
The explanation for the dual announcements is simple: Saunders was granted his release from the Pirates once the club acquired Corey Dickerson in a trade with the Rays on Thursday. Saunders was expected to compete for an outfield spot (along will fellow newcomers Bryce Brentz and Daniel Nava), but Dickerson will almost assuredly get the starting job.
Saunders’ agent, Barry Meister, confirmed to SB Nation Friday that the Pirates granted Saunders his release to pursue better opportunities.
“As per the agreement with Pittsburgh, when the opportunity changed, the Pirates and specifically Neal Huntington were gracious enough to allow Michael to seek another opportunity,” Meister said. They should be commended for their player-friendly, honest and transparent behavior.”
Saunders will now join Jorge Bonifacio, Paulo Orlando, Alex Gordon, Cody Asche and Tyler Collins as outfielders who are expected to be in the mix for jobs in Kansas City this season. With Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain and (likely) Mike Moustakas headed elsewhere, the Royals are in the midst of a rebuild and their roster is in flux.
Saunders, 31, signed an $8 million deal with the Phillies last winter but struggled early with the club and was released in June. He returned to the Blue Jays, with whom he spent the two previous seasons, and ended the year with a combined .202/.256/.344 line and six homers in 73 major-league games.