Arizona GM Josh Byrnes has had, for lack of a better description, an interesting offseason. In 2008, the Diamondbacks ~$66.2 mil payroll rose above heights not seen since the 2005 season. The team led the division for most of the season before crumbling down the stretch, necessitating some personnel moves in order to ensure such an event does not repeat itself. With a mix of veterans signed to longer deals and young, productive players still under club control, few roster spots are actually available, however.
Compound that with the supposed lack of payroll flexibility and Byrnes finds himself in a tricky situation. How can he upgrade the team if a) certain players with plenty of value like Orlando Hudson, Adam Dunn and Randy Johnson cannot be retained, and b) he only has $4-$6 mil to spend? Sure, upgrades can be made in that ballpark of cost, but it is much tougher. In the current market, though, perhaps things would be a bit easier.
Unfortunately, he has been turned down a few times, most recently by both Randy Wolf and Jon Garland. The exact terms of the deals offered to these Type B free agent starters are not known, but according to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic, Garland’s offer included two option years. In speaking to Nick, I also learned that the Diamondbacks generally do not give out incentive-laden contracts.
If the team did favor the incentive-laden deals, one could surmise that both pitchers were offered such contracts. In Wolf’s case, the deal may have featured a lower base salary with incentives for playing time given his recent injury history. His deal may also have included options that automatically vest if a certain games started threshold was met. In Garland’s case, the options may have automatically vested based on games started and innings pitched totals. This way, if he became ineffective, the team can easily cut ties with the righty.
Because they are not normally in favor of such deals, it appears more likely that both pitchers were offered salaries lower than they would liked. And, they were both likely offered option years in their contract as opposed to guaranteed years. Someone like Garland, who has routinely logged 190+ innings in 32+ starts, may have wanted guaranteed seasons to protect himself. That way, if he repeats his 2008 season, or worsens, at least he doesn’t have to worry if his option will vest.
If the salary aspect of these offers become available, we will know if the deals were rejected due to money or if the lack of guarantee dissuaded the hurlers. Based on fair market values, Garland projects to about +2.7 wins next season at $12.1 mil. Wolf looks like a league average, +2.0 win pitcher, with a FMV of $9 mil. The current market may depress their values, but if the Diamondbacks only have $6 mil to spend, they would really need to convince a player like Garland that the absolute best deal he will receive is half of his fair market value. A negotiating tactic like this should work more with an injury-prone pitcher like Wolf, but given his rejection, apparently not.
It will be very interesting to see how much these pitchers were offered as well as where (and for what) they end up signing. Neither is an elite talent, but both have value. Garland declined arbitration because he felt he could command a higher fee than the $12 mil earned last season. Wolf was not even offered arbitration because the Astros felt the $10 mil he would command carried with it too much risk. Regardless, both players consider themselves well above the reported amount of money the Diamondbacks have left to spend.
It seems weird when two pitchers turn down the same team in the same week, but under these circumstances, it at least makes some sense. Still, they may regret their decisions when the marketplace for such players continues to dwindle and the Mets, the only team reportedly interested in either, shore up their staff.