The Diamondbacks signed Miguel Montero to a five-year, $60 million extension over the weekend. The richest deal in Diamondbacks franchise history effectively keeps Montero in Arizona for the rest of his prime. It also ensures that the team has a very good player at an important position locked up at a fairly reasonable price.
Set to hit free agency after the season, the 28-year old Montero would have been the best full-time catcher on the market. Considering that Mike Napoli isn’t really an everyday backstop, that Yadier Molina signed a contract extension in March, and that the likes of David Ross, Yorvit Torrealba and Ronny Paulino are backups, Montero really wasn’t going to have much trouble signing a lucrative deal. The Diamondbacks were clearly interested in keeping Montero around, and both sides had engaged in negotiations since the offseason began. The contract extension was more a matter of when, than if, and no timeline was set by which a deal had to get done.
The deal will pay Montero $10 million in both 2013 and 2014, $12 million in 2015, and $14 million in both 2016 and 2017. The contract doesn’t seem to include any player or club options and lacks no-trade protection. Overall, this is a great deal for Montero, who gets long-term security at his approximate market value.
The deal makes plenty of sense for the Diamondbacks as well, but how much so depends on Montero’s ability to remain a catcher through his age-33 season and if he can sustain some semblance of last year’s production.
In terms of the dollars, Montero’s contract was clearly impacted by Molina’s extension. Molina, arguably the best catcher in baseball, signed a five-year, $75 million deal back in March that was generally perceived as an overpay unless he sustains his offensive improvement and continues to play elite defense. Montero entered the season seeking a contract similar to Victor Martinez‘s four-year, $50 million pact, and there were reports that negotiations originally broke off in February, when the Diamondbacks offered Montero $32 million over four years. In the end, he signed for more than the Snakes original offer and received a deal comparable to Martinez, with a slightly lower average annual value, but an extra guaranteed year.
Montero was never going to sign for more than Molina but the Diamondbacks hand was forced when Yadier signed that deal, as the floor for a contract rose and he regained leverage in negotiations. The Diamondbacks couldn’t have known when Molina was going to sign, or how far along he and the Cardinals were in negotiations, but this seems like an example where the low nature of their initial offer really hurt the team, as they had a chance to lock Montero up for less money. But there’s no use crying over spilled milk, I suppose, and the Diamondbacks got their guy, even though they’ll pay him more than they could have were negotiations approached differently.
In terms of the team’s payroll situation, and barring any major offseason activity, Montero is set to become the highest-paid player on the 2013 roster at $10 million. That speaks volumes for the makeup of the Diamondbacks roster as much of the core is locked up at very affordable deals, giving the team plenty of wiggle room to sign the pieces necessary to contend without hampering their ability to keep homegrown talent on the roster. And the players who would ordinarily break the bank — Justin Upton and Chris Young — are signed through 2015 and 2014, respectively, at very affordable rates. Numerous other core players are either signed through 2013-14 or are still arbitration eligible.
In other words, yeah, the Diamondbacks probably could have signed Montero for less had negotiations continued throughout spring training, but the end result is a deal that doesn’t financially hinder their ability to field a team and build a winner. And it keeps a top-notch player at an important position around for his peak seasons.
Montero has a career .270/.339/.442 line with a .336 wOBA. He has hit even better as a full-time player, with a .280/.348/.452 line and a .344 wOBA from 2009-12. That wOBA ranks ninth among the 25 qualifying catchers, which is solid but not spectacular and very indicative of his offensive game. He is above average in just about every offensive category but doesn’t really stand out in any of them. He is simply an above average hitter, which makes him even more valuable given his position.
Over the same four-year span, major league catchers have ranged from .307-.315 in wOBA, have collectively rated as below average defenders, and have pretty awful baserunning marks. Montero hasn’t fallen below .330 since 2008, and is obviously projected to post a better wOBA than his current .310 mark this year. His defense has improved over the last few seasons, and he throws out a great deal of would-be base-stealers. He isn’t a great baserunner, but his ratings aren’t awful either. Across the board he is a very good baseball player that, when healthy, seems capable of a minimum of 3 WAR, with the chance to produce much more than that.
The Diamondbacks kept a very good catcher around at an average of $12 million per season during what figures to be his prime. The deal doesn’t cripple them financially and is likely worth less than they would have paid him had he hit free agency.
It’s potentially for more than they could have signed him for had a deal been worked out prior to Molina’s extension, but all things considered it’s hard to find many faults with the team’s decision. I’m not a big fan of the phrase “win-win deal”, but it sure seems like both sides got what they wanted here.