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What's the impact on the D-backs of the Montero trade?

On Opening Day 2015, the Diamondbacks will not have Miguel Montero catching, for the first time since 2009. What else does today's 'deal with the Chicago Cubs mean for Arizona

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The roster

The most obvious impact is the need to replace someone who started a total of 377 games behind the plate for the Diamondbacks over the past three seasons. Only Paul Goldschmidt (402) has made more starts for us in that time, so we should certainly not under-estimate the difficulty or importance of getting someone to take over. That's not to mention Montero's undoubted presence as a clubhouse leader, and the Diamondback with far and away most time with the team - he has spent a total of 14 seasons in the organization.

There's universal acknowledgement that Tuffy Gosewisch, Montero's backup last season, is not equipped to step up to an everyday role. With all respect to Tuffy - whose story of perseverance is inspirational - there's a reason he didn't make it to the majors until the same month he turned 30. In his 55 games since, he has shown very limited offense, with a line of .213/.225/.287, which is an OPS+ of just 41. Even allowing for his solid defense, that's just too much of a liability at the plate, for the Diamondbacks to send him out for 100 games or more. By all means, let him be a backup again in 2015.

The other internal candidate is prospect Peter O'Brien, and there appears little doubt as to offensive potential - he missed the last month of the season with a calf injury, yet still swatted 34 minor-league HR. But there remain legitimate questions as to whether he can stick behind the plate. His performance in the AFL were more of the same, but O'Brien feels he can make it.  "I think I can receive and block with the best of them. The biggest thing has been throwing, and that's what I've been working on the hardest. I think it is more of a transfer thing. Trying to find out where it is more comfortable for me and make sure I get the ball out clean so I can let my arm work."

While the team will certainly give him every opportunity to succeed as a catcher, with only 76 games above High-A, it seems all but a sure thing that he will start 2015 in the minor leagues. I'm more inclined to think the D-backs will look for a relatively short term replacement through trade or free-agency. If it's the latter, perhaps a one year deal, with a team option for 2016, would be the kind of thing Arizona would want, hopefully giving O'Brien enough time to develop into a catcher that can play in the major-leagues. Certainly, if he can hit 30 home-runs there, we'll be able to forgive quite a few additional stolen bases!

2015 (and beyond) Payroll

The main purpose of the deal for the Diamondbacks was to get out from under a long-term contract, which showed increasing signs of becoming an albatross. Montero had been worth only 1.2 bWAR over 2013-14, and even allowing for his pitch-framing skills, he's not getting any younger. With Miggy being due $12 million next year, and then $14 million for both 2016 and 2017, it was harder to justify. [As an aside, depending on who replaces him, I think the trade does likely make it harder for the team to reach a winning record in 2015: paying an eight-figure sum for any position on a losing team is likely a mistake]

It's difficult to come up with an exact projected figure for the Diamondbacks' payroll in 2015, mostly because we don't know the exact details of the Yasmany Tomas signing,, and there's the questions of whether the $14m signing bonus should be factored into things. Assuming not, and given he's earning [updated with actual figure] about $2 million in his first season with Arizona, that would now make the total for 2015 round around the $87 million mark, including projected raises for our arbitration-eligible players. This would be easily in line with the expectations expressed by Derrick Hall at the beginning of the off-season.

There will also be significant savings in 2016 and 2017. There's a lot of money tied up in team options for the first season - Bronson Arroyo, Trevor Cahill, Josh Collmenter, Cody Ross, Brad Ziegler. But assuming we exercise Josh and Brad, and pay out the others, the D-backs' current 2016 roster could be as cheap as $65 million. With the departure of Montero, Aaron Hill ($12m) would be the only one guaranteed more than $6 million, though a couple of our third-year arbitration players [Miley and Trumbo, most likely] could also be there.

That's important as, combined with the boost in local TV revenue, it should mean plenty of room for the acquisition of a starting pitcher who can top the rotation - either this winter, with a more back-loaded deal, or during next off-season. Those expected to be hitting free agency at that point, currently include David Price, Johnny Cueto, Yovani Gallardo, Jeff Samardzija and Jordan Zimmermann (and possibly Kenta Maeda, depending on when his team decides to post him) . There may be an argument to be made for the team going into a holding pattern next year, and then splurging as we head into the 2015-16 off-season..