Fear of losing Montero leads D-backs to big deal
By BOB BAUM
PHOENIX (AP) The possibility of losing Miguel Montero to free agency and the lack of an alternative that would bring in anyone of comparable ability led the Arizona Diamondbacks to agree to $60 million, five-year contract with the 28-year-old catcher that covers 2013-17.
Montero signed the contract on Saturday and, with his 20-month-old son Angel on his lap, said at a news conference that he never wanted to leave the organization that he has been a part of since agreeing to a $13,000 deal 11 years ago.
General Manager Kevin Towers said that the free agent market will not be a good one after this season and Montero would have been at the top of the list for the 10 to 12 teams that will be looking for catchers.
"We did our due diligence, looking at who's out there, what type of value we'd put on those guys compared with Miggy," Towers said. "To me, even if it was somewhat of an overpay situation it was well worthwhile just because of the importance of the position, the player and the intangibles that he brings."
Towers said there is no doubt that when Yadier Molina signed a $75 million, five-year deal with the Cardinals in March, a deal that also covers 2013-17, "it showed a change in the market, especially for catchers.")
Arizona and Montero's agents suspended contract talks this spring, saying any further discussions would be put off until the season was over. But about two weeks ago, the Diamondbacks approached Montero's people to try to work out an agreement.
"We wanted to keep it quiet. We didn't want Miggy to have to worry about it.," Towers said. "Let's give it one more shot because we all know the closer you get to free agency, the more chance you probably have of losing exclusivity with a player."
While the Diamondbacks fretted about losing their clubhouse leader and the man who directs the pitching staff, Montero said he never intended to go anywhere else.
" I was pretty clear with my agents. I told them that I really want to sign here, I want to stay here," he said. "I never visualized myself playing for another team, to be honest. I feel like this is where I belong, so I was clear enough to tell them we've got to get something done with the Diamondbacks."
He talked of his comfort level with the organization and how much his family liked it in Phoenix.
"I like to play happy," Montero said. "Everybody likes me here, I guess. I think here everybody knows the way I am. It's something that I really thought about, my wife and I, so I was pretty sure I was going to staqy here."
Montero, who bats left handed, is a career .270 hitter. He had career bests in several categories in helping Arizona win the NL West a year ago, hitting .282 with 18 home runs, 36 doubles and a team-high 86 RBIs. He led the National League by throwing out 47.1 percent of base runners attempting to steal last season and is first in that category again this year at 47.6 percent. But, like the rest of the team, he has struggled at the plate, hitting .255 with two homers and 21 RBIs.
His contribution goes beyond the numbers, manager Kirk Gibson said.
"I'm not sure everybody understands the significance of having a catcher like Miguel Montero," Gibson said. "The things that we've developed over the years and continue to develop, the things that he has to run, you're not just squatting back there putting fingers down."
Montero, out of the lineup for the fourth straight game Saturday night because of a groin strain, acknowledged there probably is pressure to live up to such a big contract.
"But I don't know, I just don't feel that way," he said. I've just got to keep doing my thing. That's all I can worry about. I can't think if I go 0-for-4 I don't deserve that contract, you know. That's going to happen. I'm going to go 0-for-10, 0-for-16. The reality is you've got to get up and go back and play the next day. I feel strong enough to put that behind me and go out and play."
Club President Derrick Hall indicated it "was very important" to Montero's representatives for the contract to have a fifth year. Hall acknowledged it was a significant amount of money for the team's budget, which should get a boost with a new local television deal next season.
"We knew we were going to have to stretch a bit," he said. "There were a few signings that made that clear in the off-season, that things were going to change. But it was very important to all of us to make sure that we lock someone like Miggy up. As he mentioned, he grew up in this organization. That's important to us, too. If we have a gem like him, we want to hold on to him."
Updated May 26, 2012