Will Miguel Montero’s Pending Free Agency be a Distraction for the D-Backs?
By having an All-Star 2011 Miguel Montero perhaps earned himself a big pay day. Montero–who hit .280 with 18 home runs, 86 RBI and an .820 OPS–went into arbitration this off-season with the Diamondbacks and received a 1-year $5.9 million deal.
Rumor has it that Montero is looking for Victor Martinez-type money. Martinez–currently on the season ending DL–signed a 4 year, $52 million dollar deal with the Detroit Tigers during last offseason. While Martinez suffered knee injuries and witnessed the emergence of Detroit’s own All-Star backstop–Alex Avila–he was still incredibly productive as a DH hitting .330 with 103 RBI and 12 home runs. He was such a key piece in Detroit’s lineup that when he was lost due to a freak, offseason training injury that tore his ACL, Detroit threw as much money as possible at the second biggest free agent name this offseason, Prince Fielder, to replace Martinez in the lineup.
Montero may be looking at that type of money, and while he doesn’t yet have nearly the pedigree that Martinez had when signing the deal he is also intregal to the D-Backs lineup. Montero’s demands seem to be a fair asking price when considering Yadier Molina of the Cardinals signed an enormous 5 year, $75 million deal this offseason to stay in St. Louis but in light of Mike Napoli of the Rangers re-upping to a 1-year $9.5 million deal, perhaps it isn’t. Molina was perhaps a knee-jerk signing in light of the loss of Albert Pujols might earn the D-Backs backstop millions of dollars next offseason and Napoli was apparently a guy taking a paycut to stay where he really wanted to play which might cost him a few dollars. Montero will be 29 this year and is fully in the prime of his career. He’s had a few ups and downs the last several years but finally seemed to settle in last season. Another factor that could affect Montero’s value is that the overall quality of catchers in baseball has substantially improved the last several years. Gone are the days of Pudge Rodriguez and a bunch of other guys. Besides Molina, Napoli and Avila, Buster Posey of the Giants, Brian McCann of the Braves, Joe Mauer of the Twins and Carlos Santana of the Indians are among the backstops that have shined the last couple of season.
What remains to be seen is whether or not Montero’s contract status will begin to turn into a distraction as the season rolls on. While the market for catchers seems to be all over the place–and Montero may perform himself out of the D-Backs budget this season–there appears to be little worry that Montero’s contract will be a huge topic of conversation and if it does, there is no concern that it will affect his or the D-Backs performance. Phoenix isn’t a market like New York, Boston or even Chicago. Montero won’t be under the media microscope. He also isn’t a huge name. Albert Pujols’ free agency was a big deal in 2011. It was talked about every day, Montero won’t approach that coverage. Even if he does get inundated with questions like Pujols did in 2011, it doesn’t guarantee failure. How did last season work out for Pujols and the Cardinals? There’s nothing to worry about in regard to Montero, D-Back fans…that is until the 2012 season is over.
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