The Phillies signed Michael Saunders after his 2016 revival with the Blue Jays. That year, he adjusted his hand positioning in his swing and blasted a career-high 24 home runs. Philadelphia cut bait in June, though, as his plate discipline floundered and his power dipped. Toronto re-signed him to a minor-league deal, and he went 3-for-18 during a brief opportunity in September. By season's end, Saunders only had six homers, and his infield flyball rate soared from 6.5 percent to 14.3. Even if he lands a 25-man roster spot out of spring training, Saunders probably won't play often against lefties (.230/.290/.392 career) or steal many bases (five in his last three healthy seasons), significantly limiting his appeal to fantasy owners.
Saunders has left the Blue Jays to witness the birth of his child, Arden Zwelling of Sportsnet.ca reports. It's unclear how much time Saunders will miss while away from the team, but it shouldn't be more than a few games. The 30-year-old outfielder has primarily seen time as a pinch hitter since joining the Blue Jays after rosters expanded, going 3-for-6 with with two walks and two strikeouts. He'll continue to occupy a bench role when he returns.
The Blue Jays will call up Saunders from Triple-A Buffalo on Friday, John Lott of The Athletic Toronto reports. The well-traveled outfielder wraps up his Bisons campaign at .275/.322/.408 with two home runs in 152 plate appearances, following a .205/.257/.360 stretch with six bombs in 214 plate appearances for the Phillies. Saunders will serve a depth role for the Jays, making him potentially useful in AL-only formats.
Saunders signed a minor-league contract with the Blue Jays on Wednesday, Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com reports. Toronto struggled to find consistent production from the left field spot between Ezequiel Carrera and Steve Pearce this season, so the organization could end up turning to a former Blue Jay to see if he can offer a boost at the position. Saunders was let go by the Phillies earlier this month after slashing .205/.257/.360 in 214 plate appearances, but he's just one season removed from a 24-homer, 32-double campaign that netted him an All-Star nod with Toronto. He'll first report to Triple-A Buffalo to begin his second tour with the organization, but if he's able to find some success at the plate early on, a promotion to the big club could come quickly.
The Phillies released Saunders on Friday. Saunders and his $9 million contract unsurprisingly passed through waivers unclaimed, so the Phillies have given him his release. He is now eligible to sign with any team for the minimum.
Saunders was designated for assignment by the Phillies on Tuesday, Todd Zolecki of MLB.com reports. After being named an All-Star last season, Saunders struggled through the first half of 2017 before being cast off the Phillies' 40-man roster. The 30-year-old managed a weak .205/.257/.360 slash line with six homers and 51 strikeouts in 200 at-bats this season (61 games). Given his $9 million contract, he'll likely pass through waivers unclaimed, become a free agent and sign elsewhere for cheap.