Saunders did not receive a qualifying offer from the Blue Jays and is now a free agent, Jon Heyman of Today's Knuckleball reports. A draft pick will not be attached to Saunders, which will make him all the more appealing in free agency. He played 108 games in left field and 22 games in right field in 2016, while also getting a handful of starts as the designated hitter. Saunders has slightly better career splits against righties (100 wRC+ against RHP, 90 wRC+ against LHP), so he could occupy the strong side of a corner outfield platoon with whatever team signs him.
Saunders is unlikely to be extended a qualifying offer from the Blue Jays, Jon Heyman of Today's Knuckleball reports. Heyman points to a rough finish as to why the Jays are hesitant to give Saunders an offer. After hitting a robust .281/.366/.536 through the end of June, Saunders fell flat in the final two months of the season with a .186/.267/.338 line in August and September. Not that Saunders is complaining, as no draft pick compensation should significantly open up his free agent market.
The Jays remain noncommittal regarding Saunders, a potential free agent, and whether they will make a qualifying offer to keep him in 2017, ESPN reports. Saunders was hitting .298 when he won the final spot on the AL All-Star team. However, his average slumped to .253 by the end of the campaign. The price of a qualifying offer this year is $17.2 million, and realistically, the 29-year-old outfielder likely isn't worth that price. In a season-ending news conference Monday, general manager Ross Atkins said the Jays are still pondering what to do with Saunders, who hit a career-high 24 home runs this season. On the other hand, Atkins said the club fully intends to extend qualifying offers to teammates Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion.
Saunders is out of the lineup for Sunday's game against the Red Sox, Barry Davis of SportsNet reports. Saunders has posted an underwhelming .196/.278/.357 line over the last 30 games, during which he's struck out 25 times across 70 at-bats. He'll give way to Melvin Upton on Sunday when the Blue Jays face David Price.
Saunders is not in the lineup for Friday's game against the Red Sox, Barry Davis of Sportsnet reports. Saunders continues to slump down the stretch, as a 1-for-8 showing over the last three games dropped his average on the month down to just .154, and so even with the right-handed Rick Porcello set to oppose Toronto, Saunders will take a seat Friday. Jose Bautista will get the start in right field, with Edwin Encarnacion serving as the DH.