Saunders will report to triple-A Buffalo, where he’ll provide left-handed power while reinforcing an organizational need. With Anthony Alford, Darrell Ceciliani, Chris Coghlan and Dalton Pompey all on the disabled list, the Blue Jays are short on outfielders.
“Michael’s one of the good guys,” manager John Gibbons said Wednesday. “I like it.”
Saunders, 30, earned an all-star appearance last year, hitting 16 first-half home runs with a .923 OPS. His production dropped off in the second half (.638 OPS, eight home runs), but he delivered in the playoffs with a .981 OPS in eight games.
“It was a childhood dream come true for me to put on a Jays uniform,” Saunders said after the 2016 season ended. “It’s lived up to every expectation I had. I loved my time in Toronto and I hope to be back.”
The Victoria B.C., native kept in touch with the Blue Jays as a free agent before signing a one-year, $8 million deal with Philadelphia in January. But he hit just .205/.257/.360 with six home runs for the Phillies, who released him June 23.
If Saunders reaches the big-league level, the Blue Jays will only be responsible for the pro-rated portion of the MLB minimum salary with the Phillies picking up the rest of his contract.
Best-case scenario, the Blue Jays help Saunders re-discover his form and he eventually reinforces their lineup. Worst-case scenario it’s a minor-league deal for a player who was an all-star this time last year.