Jeanmar Gomez

Phillies release Michael Saunders, Jeanmar Gomez

Phillies release Michael Saunders, Jeanmar Gomez

The Michael Saunders experiment is finally over.

The Phillies on Sunday officially released Saunders and reliever Jeanmar Gomez after the pair was designated for assignment Tuesday. After clearing unconditional release waivers, the duo is now free to sign with any team.

Saunders signed a one-year, $9 million deal in the offseason to jolt the Phillies' power-needy corner outfield spots. Saunders floundered in his time with the Phillies, slashing .205/.257/.360 with six home runs, 20 RBIs and 51 strikeouts. Saunders boasted the league's worst on-base percentage among qualified hitters (.257). 

With a white-hot May, Aaron Altherr supplanted Saunders in the outfield, making the Phillies' big offseason acquisition expendable.

After saving 37 games in 2016, Gomez's late-season struggles carried over to 2017. Gomez tossed a 4.85 ERA in 2016, en route to tossing the eighth-most saves in baseball. He was a noticeably different pitcher as the season wore on, as he lost his grip on the closer position. Gomez rounded out the year with a 19.13 ERA in September.

Gomez posted a 7.25 ERA in 18 appearances this season.

Phillies' roster moves reflect GM's vision for a team that controls the strike zone

Phillies' roster moves reflect GM's vision for a team that controls the strike zone

Phillies general manager Matt Klentak is going full-throttle on the concept controlling the strike zone.

You could see it in the team's first selection in last week's draft. And you could see it in the roster moves he made on Tuesday (see story).

A week after selecting University of Virginia on-base machine Adam Haseley — his signing will be official in the next day or two — Klentak dropped underperforming veterans Jeanmar Gomez and Michael Saunders from the roster.

Gomez had five good months as the Phillies' closer last season, but has since fallen hard. He was replaced in the bullpen by 26-year-old Hoby Milner, a sidewinding lefty who struck out 27 and walked just four in 27 2/3 innings at Triple A Lehigh Valley.

Saunders, who opened the season as the Phillies' No. 5 hitter, was let go after hitting just .205 with a .257 on-base percentage in 200 at-bats. He proved not to be the "professional hitter" the Phillies hoped they were getting when they signed him for $9 million in January.

"It definitely didn't work out the way that we hoped it would, or the way Michael hoped it would," Klentak said. "Obviously in January this was not the story we were hoping would be written."

Klentak's affinity for players who control the strike zone — i.e., pitchers who throw strikes and hitters who work counts, don't chase bad pitches and walk more than they strike out — was further illustrated by the player who replaced Saunders on the 25-man roster. Outfielder Cameron Perkins got the call over Nick Williams.

Williams, 23, is a top prospect who has swung a hot bat at Triple A Lehigh Valley in recent weeks. He entered play Tuesday night hitting .280 with 14 homers and 41 RBIs. However, he had struck out 79 times, walked just nine and had an on-base percentage of just .314. By contrast, Perkins, 26, was hitting .298 with six homers, 21 RBIs and a .388 on-base percentage. He had walked 27 times and struck out 35.

"We look at every player individually," Klentak said. "I think a couple of the areas where Cam is ready is, yeah, his ability to control the strike zone, his ability to play the outfield. I think he's a good fit for where we are right now. By no means is the fact that he's being promoted today a reflection of our opinion of any of the other guys that are still in Triple A, specifically the guys on the [40-man] roster; we still have very high hopes for their futures. But as I said last week when we were talking about Nick specifically, there are still some things that we want him to work on. And that really hasn't changed, even though Nick has been hot again for the last week.

"Cameron Perkins has had a really good first half of the Triple A season, and, importantly, he's done it in areas that are really important to us as a franchise. This is a guy who has worked hard at controlling the strike zone, he can play all three outfield spots, he's a good athlete, he's a little bit older for a minor-league guy. He's done everything he needs to do. It's an excellent time for him to come up and get some playing time."

Manager Pete Mackanin said he was eager to get a look at Perkins. He will get frequent playing time, but probably not play every day, although that could come if he hits. Another difference between Perkins and Williams and eventually Dylan Cozens: The Phillies hope Williams and Cozens can develop into game-breakers who play every day. When they come up, they need to play regularly. Perkins projects as more of a reserve or semi-regular outfielder so management will be more comfortable with him sitting on occasion.

Gomez and Saunders were both designated for assignment. The Phillies have seven days to dispose of their contracts through a release or a trade.

Phillies DFA Michael Saunders, Jeanmar Gomez; call up Cam Perkins, Hoby Milner

Phillies DFA Michael Saunders, Jeanmar Gomez; call up Cam Perkins, Hoby Milner

After giving the Michael Saunders experiment nearly three months, the Phillies on Tuesday designated the veteran outfielder for assignment.

They also DFA'd reliever Jeanmar Gomez. The Phils have 10 days to either trade them, release them, place them on waivers or outright them off the 40-man roster to the minor leagues, if they accept.

To replace Saunders and Gomez on the 25-man roster, the Phillies selected the contracts of outfielder Cam Perkins and left-handed reliever Hoby Milner.

The Phillies guaranteed Saunders $10 million in the form of $9 million this season and a $1 million buyout on his 2018 club option.

In 61 games, he hit .205/.257/.360 with six home runs, 20 RBIs and 51 strikeouts. Saunders' .257 OBP was the lowest among all 78 National Leaguers who qualify for the batting title.

Gomez, who saved 37 games last season, had a 7.25 ERA this year in 18 appearances.

The right-handed hitting Perkins, 26, was the Phillies' sixth-round pick in 2012 out of Purdue. In six minor-league seasons, he's hit .283 with a .755 OPS. This season at Lehigh Valley, Perkins hit .298/.388/.476 with 17 doubles, six homers and 21 RBIs. 

Milner gave the IronPigs a 2.60 ERA in 22 appearances with 27 strikeouts and just four walks in 27⅔ innings. He'll give the Phillies a lefty specialist in the bullpen. Lefties were just 9 for 45 (.200) off Milner at Triple A with 14 K's.

Neither Perkins nor Milner has appeared in the majors.

If you're wondering why it was Perkins and not Nick Williams or Dylan Cozens who got the call Tuesday, the Phillies' rationale is likely that they wanted to continue to get both outfield prospects everyday playing time at Triple A, whereas they won't feel the need to start Perkins every day in the majors.