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'Twas the night before the night before the night before Christmas...

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'Twas the week before Christmas, and all through AZ
Not a creature was stirring, not even Josh B
The budget was worked out by Derrick with care,
In hopes that a free-agent pitcher they'd snare.
The Redheads were nestled all snug in their beds
While visions of playoff games danced in their heads...

There's more [I was particularly pleased with the "On soco, on kishi, on diamondhacks too..." section], but I gave up when I realized just how long the entire poem is, so I'm leaving that as an exercise for you, dear readers. Things have gone back to their usual quiet self after the wild excitement of the winter meetings [hey, this off-season I'll take my wild excitement where I can find it, thank you very much, even in the shape of a Rule 5 draft pick], with the current hot topic the news that we are nearing a one-year deal with Tony Clark. Be still, my beating heart. This does fill a tricky hole on the roster - we are now sorted, if we need a catchy slogan for the 2009 playoffs, though I'm not certain this is an essential use of the roster-spot. Still, if we need a left-handed first-baseman to, our other left-handed first-baseman, Chad Tracy, Clark will do the job admirably.

Time to do what I usually do in tough times like this: put the word "Diamondbacks" into Google News, and see what it spits out. Let's start with some news on former players. Trot Nixon signed a minor-league contract with the Brewers; we had Nixon stashed in Tucson early on before selling him to the Mets for cash and/or a player to be named later [sources differ on this one]. I can't help wondering if Nixon might have been a better option for the Diamondbacks in 2009 than Clark? Ditto, Jeff Salazar, who signed a minor-league contract with the Pirates. He does at least offer some position flexibility; instead, we're going to see an awful lot of Augie Ojeda, as the sole alternative to both Drew at short and Lopez at second, unless James Skelton develops an unexpected ability at either position.

Nick Piecoro writes about the prospect of Brandon Webb getting extended, and the possible cost, though without any real new information on the topic. Neither side in the matter is prepared to comment, the team even being unwilling to say whether they're going to negotiate with Webb this winter. It's something we talked about a bit previously, when he came second in the Cy Young, with particular focus on his age when his current contract expires, and the resulting question of whether we should pay a prime rate for what are likely to become his declining years.

The story quotes one agent as putting "Webb's price range to be somewhere between $19 million and $22 million annually, depending on the length of the deal." Piecoro points out that, when you add Haren's contract, this could mean the team having 40% of their payroll - depending on exactly what that number is - committed to two players. That's a lot of eggs in a couple of baskets, for a mid-market team like the Diamondbacks, and would certainly be a risky move. For completeness, here is what we have owed to those two going forward; bear in mind we're probably looking at a total payroll around $90m or so [* indicates a team option year]:

Haren Webb
2009 $7.5m $6.5m
2010 $8.25m $8.5m*
2011 $12.75m ???
2012 $12.75m ???
2013 $15.5m* ???

One key difference is age; Haren's contract, even including the team option year [there's a $3.5 buyout if it's not invoked], would only just take him to his 33rd birthday, in September 2013. Brandon Webb turns 32 in May 2011, right at the start of his new contract. Yet, if age is a concern, one wonders why negotiations with Webb broke down earlier this season, after the two sides had basically agreed to a three-year, $54 million extension? I strongly suspect there's something lurking beneath the water there, and have heard mutterings from various directions of what that might have been, but nothing strong enough to merit publication. But I do tend to think that, if nothing happens by the start of next season, the odds are probably that there will be no extension.

This might or might not be the last thing before Christmas. Theory states that the second part of the defensive metrics piece would go up on Wednesday, but that is proving a can of worms - a very interesting one, it has to be said, but I wouldn't be surprised if it ends up being delayed and/or split into three parts. If it doesn't make it, hope everyone has a happy and safe Christmas and I'll see you on the other side of the pine needles.