Former #BlueJays OF Michael Saunders will try to help Canada qualify for the 2020 Olympics at Premier12. The tournament will be his last as a player, as even if country makes it to Tokyo, he's retiring to take a job in #Braves system: https://t.co/dhsoR0qK6O— Shi Davidi (@ShiDavidi) October 25, 2019
While many are waiting for the remaining dominoes to fall in terms of the managerial openings around the majors, several minor league clubs are also looking for new leadership. As of today, the Danville Braves are no longer a part of that group. Former major league outfielder Michael Saunders has been named the new manager of the Braves’ rookie ball affiliate in the Appalachian League. Recently retired, Saunders will begin his new career next season.
A veteran of nine years, Saunders will first attempt to help the Team Canada baseball squad make the 2020 Summer Olympics as the sport of baseball makes its anticipated return. While Saunders seems at peace with the fact that his playing days in the majors are over, his passion for the game remains. As a result, Saunders seems excited to have the chance to represent his country and the Braves in the near future.
It seems the new career opportunity for Saunders is a byproduct from his playing days. Back when Alex Anthopoulos was the General Manager for the Toronto Blue Jays, he traded veteran starter J.A. Happ to the Mariners for Saunders in December of 2014. Unfortunately, Saunders was unable to have an immediate impact in Toronto due to a freak accident tripping over a sprinkler while shagging fly balls during the beginning of spring training in 2015.
Fortunately, things were a bit different in 2016. Saunders had the best year of his career, thanks mainly to a highly productive first half that resulted in an All-Star selection. Saunders eventually played through the 2017 season, finishing up as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies. Overall, Saunders batted .232/.305./.397 for his career and was worth 5.6 bWAR during his playing days. After an opportunity to return to the majors with the Rockies did not pan out, Saunders decided to take a new path for his career.
It will be interesting to see if Saunders may begin a trend during Anthopoulos’s era in Atlanta. We have already seen that Anthopoulos has put a preference on bringing some of his former players into the Braves organization as players. Going forward, we may see more former players with ties to Anthopoulos get opportunities to progress their careers in new ways. Hopefully, this opportunity will blossom into a very beneficial partnership for both the Braves and Saunders. Just as a precaution, the Braves may want to ensure all sprinkler locations are labeled to be avoided in the future.