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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.