Green: An extension of failure
Lost in the excitement and maybe even surprise of Miguel Montero's rise to prominence is the fact that the Diamondbacks will soon have a newly signed, highly paid catcher riding the pine.
Chris Snyder, formerly the starter for your Arizona Diamondbacks, will almost certainly find himself playing behind the surging Montero when he returns from his back injury sometime in the next week or so. While having two solid options at the position is not a bad thing for Arizona, that the lesser of the two choices is the more highly paid is.
Thing is, Snyder's extension before this season (3 years,$14.25 million) is not the only contract extension the D-backs have given out that has backfired. Check out this clip from an espn.com article from when Snyder signed his extension:
The deal includes a fourth-year club option that could bring the overall value to more than $20 million. It follows Arizona's multiyear contracts with players such as center fielder Chris Young and pitcher Dan Haren, infielder Chad Tracy and outfielder Eric Byrnes.
Out of five recent contract extensions handed out by General Manger Josh Byrnes, four seem to have been the wrong move. Sure, the Dan Haren extension seems like a good move right now (though as great as he's been, he's still never proven he can dominate for a full season), but the other four deals haven't just not worked for the Diamondbacks - they've been absolute disasters
One out of five has been good. That's a .200 batting average. While higher than Chris Young's, and close to those belonging to Byrnes and Snyder, it is a number that can be terribly damaging to a small-market club like the Diamondbacks.
You see, when a team like the Yankees goes and signs a Carl Pavano or the Red Sox give big money to a Julio Lugo, it does not really cost them because they can afford to keep adding new (and better) players until they get the right mix. Thus, their mistakes are marginalized and the teams can continue to pay high level talent so that they can compete at a high level every season.
For a team like the Diamondbacks, however, with a payroll of roughly 74 million, having a mistake like Eric Byrnes' $11 million salary on the books can be crippling. Add more money flushed down the toilet in the Tracy, Snyder and Young extensions, and one can see why the team has watched players like Orlando Hudson and Adam Dunn leave to have productive seasons elsewhere, while the D-backs are struggling to fill their spots in the field and at the plate.
Now, it is easy to see what Byrnes was and probably still is trying to accomplish with these contracts. By giving guys extensions before they are even arbitration eligible, the team is banking on the ability to keep key players for possibly below market value - which is how Brandon Webb was one of the most underpaid players in the game the last few years. And, while it should be noted that Webb's extension came under Byrnes' watch, that was in the early days when the hot shot GM had the "Golden Boy" image working for him.
Fast forward a few years, however, and the luster of said Golden Boy has seemed to wear off some, and the team is starting to pay for the mistakes.
Are the bad contracts the reason the D-backs have been all sorts of fail this year? Not exactly. Injuries and relying too much on unproven youth have been given as the main reasons for the team's struggles by players and members of the front office, but tying up significant dollars into unproductive players limited the team's ability to add the necessary veterans to survive the injuries and provide leadership.