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Miguel Montero: No Contract Extension With The Diamondbacks

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Feb 24, 2012; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero (left) catches during a workout at Salt River Fields.  Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE
Feb 24, 2012; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero (left) catches during a workout at Salt River Fields. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE
"Over the last two or three weeks, we’ve been working at it with Miggy and his side. We weren’t able to find any common ground. It was a good process. These things happen in baseball. This doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. My desire, as well as Miggy’s desire, with an important season coming up and our first game here on Saturday, is to kind of put it behind us until the end of the season. We’ll address it at that point in time."
-- Kevin Towers

Yuck. Miguel Montero will be a free-agent at the end of this year, of course, and it seems likely he's going to see what he might get on the open market. As shibum78 speculated earlier in the day, the signing of Yadier Molina to a 5-year, $75 million deal likely jacked up Montero's asking price, and may well have caused the club to pull the plug.

However, Miggy seemed more than happy to continue negotiations at the end of the year:

"Ultimately I have a decision to make. And like I said to [the D-backs], they're going to be my priority in the offseason... I know they've been trying hard. There's no hard feelings right now. It was a nice process. I've never been through it before. They tried pretty hard. Unfortunately it didn't get to where we wanted it to, but now I just want to prepare for the season."

One thing worth noting is that the free-agent market for catchers come next winter will have a number of candidates seeking a big contract. As well as Montero, Russell Martin, Mike Napoli and possibly Brian McCann (who has a $12m team option for 2013) could all conceivably be seeking new deals. Those are some solid names, so depending how things unfold this year, Montero may or may not find himself as high on the list of desirable candidates. From an Arizonan finances point of view, one suspects things could be a squeeze. While we may see Joe Saunders' money coming off the books, there are also increases due e.g. Young to Upton.

The only comparable deal to Molina's which we can look at with hindsight is the seven-year, $91 million one signed by Mike Piazza in 1999, covering [Joe Mauer's $184 million monster is still a work in progress]. The first five years of that were good value, Piazza producing 18.7 bWAR for about $59 million. The last two? Not so much, to say the least, as the Mets paid $32 million for just 0.4 bWAR. However, those first five years were still a big drop-off from the almost 32 bWAR Piazza produced over the five years prior to signing the contract. In his past five years, Molina has only 12.5 bWAR: even if he retains that level of production, $75 million would be an overpay by the Cardinals.

And the odds are against any catcher producing 12.5 WAR in their 29-33 age seasons. Less than a dozen have managed it since 1987, not least because catching is a brutal position, not generally compatible with long-term survival. Over that same 25-year timeframe, the number of 29-33 year old catchers who averaged 120 games per year is only thirteen names long. Those who have averaged 138 games, as Molina has over the past three years, are a mere handful: Kendall, Tettleton, Piazza, Posada and LoDuca. While Dave Cameron found the deal not as bad as he thought, I reckon the odds are the Cardinals will regret it over the long run.

But the unfortunate side-effect from our viewpoint, is to jack up the cost of other catchers, who will look at Molina's 3 WAR average and think, "I can do that." Now, Miggy has a real breakout season in 2011, unlike Molina, who has been an All-Star for the past three seasons. But if three WAR gets you a $75m/five year deal, then $40m/four for Montero no longer seems like quite the reasonable figure it did before Molina hit the jackpot. Montero seemed confident he could repeat his scuccess: "I do have a lot of confidence. I’ve got to go out there and prove it again. I know that. I’ll just take my chances. I’ve got plenty of confidence in me. I have to go out and play."

The team looks likely to head into the 2012-13 off-season with impending free agents at both shortstop and catcher, and no obvious candidates to replace them internally. While it's certainly wise to table things, rather than risk them being a distraction during the coming season, these are issues which will likely be critical for the team to address next winter.

Another thing of note today, the team officially named Ian Kennedy Opening Day starter - Hardly much of a surprise there. He'll also start Sunday's Cactus League game, with Daniel Hudson, Joe Saunders and Trevor Cahill following through Wednesday. Kennedy also said he'd "entertain" a multi-year offer from the Diamondbacks, though subsequent comments were less enthusiastic: "It's always hard because you see a lot of contracts like that don't make sense for players. For them it does. I know it's hard for someone to pass up millions of dollars guaranteed. I believe as a player you have the right to negotiate every year if you want to.:" Well, he is a Boras client...

Other quick snippets

  • [Fox Sports Arizona] Upton ready to send a message this season - Don Baylor says, "He has developed an understanding of how important he is to the team, and how much the team needs him in the lineup. With that in mind, there are some times a statement needs to be made. He can't just stand there time after time and get drilled."
  • [AZCentral] Arizona Diamondbacks players have diverse hobbies - "Thursday, most players will hit the Silverado Golf Club in Scottsdale for friendly competition and quality time. Pitchers Joe Saunders and Ian Kennedy, two of the team's most avid golfers, organized the tournament and split participants into nearly a dozen teams of four players each." A lot of smack-talk on Twitter today about this event...
  • [Arizona Sports] Chris Young focused on improving at the plate - "All I can do is continue to work on it and hope it all comes together for an entire season not just for a month here and a month off.. I am trying to becoming more consistent, especially with my bat, and my approach has changed a little bit,"
  • [Fox Sports Arizona] Safe at home gains new meaning in Venezuela - Montero’s bodyguard accompanied the family every time they left home. "You just try to take precautions," Montero said. "It (abduction) happens every day. You just never hear about it. Ballplayers and other people. There are a lot of people who need to be more secure." Wow.
  • Kevin Goldstein on Twitter: "The Diamondbacks have released former Mets prospect Kevin Mulvey, who had a 6.64 ERA at AAA last year... The Diamondbacks also signed indy league star Chris Valencia, who hit .342/.379/.500 for Brockton last year."

Tweet of the day goes to Clefo, getting the first such reference in of the year. Some things just never get old...