DALLAS -- The Diamondbacks are discussing a contract extension with Joe Saunders in talks that could either tie the left-hander to the Arizona rotation for a couple of more seasons ... or land him squarely on the trade block.
With young starters such as Tyler Skaggs and Jarrod Parker close to ready, and young lefties David Holmberg and Patrick Corbin on the way, the Diamondbacks are internally discussing the merits of a two- or three-year extension to Saunders.
He's worked 200 or more innings in each of the past three seasons and, as such, provides shelter for a young staff growing into its future. But he's also arbitration-eligible and due a big raise from the $5.5 million he earned in 2011. Saunders went 12-13 with a 3.69 ERA for the NL West champion Diamondbacks last summer.
If the Diamondbacks decide to go with their young pitching, the Diamondbacks could seize on a weak free agent market and perhaps deal Saunders as early as this week. The slow dance continues on the free agent market with Mark Buehrle (who is being pursued by more than a dozen clubs) and C.J. Wilson.
Beyond them and maybe Edwin Jackson, the best alternatives for clubs looking to acquire starting pitching this winter appears to be on the trade market, where Oakland is receiving hits on Gio Gonzalez, the White Sox are fielding inquiries on John Danks and Houston is shopping Wandy Rodriguez.