A late free-agent signing in the off-season, the Phillies guaranteed Saunders $9 million and had a club option for 2018 that included a $1 million buyout. After a strong start to the 2016 season for Toronto that earned him an All-Star berth, Saunders cooled off in the second half of that season and wasn’t re-signed by the Blue Jays.
The Phillies took a chance that Saunders, 30, would revert back to that first-half form and solidify the middle of their lineup. It didn’t work.
In 61 games, Saunders hit .205 with six home runs and 20 RBIs while striking out 51 times. His .257 on-base percentage was the lowest in the National League among qualified hitters.
The Phillies also designated right-hander Jeanmar Gomez for assignment. Gomez led the team in saves last season with 37, but faltered badly in September, losing the closer’s job. He never regained his form and had a 7.25 ERA in 18 appearances.
To replace them on the 25-man roster, the Phillies added outfielder Cam Perkins and left-hander Hoby Milner from Triple-A Lehigh Valley.