With Five You Get Egg Roll

When Juan Cruz signed a one-year contract that left five Diamondbacks players left unsigned from the current roster. Friday January 18 was the deadline for teams and players to exchange arbitration figures and it appeared as though the Diamondbacks may actually be involved in an arbitration hearing. This is of course not something they wanted to do. Over the first ten years of this organization they have diligently tried to avoid arbitration. It’s a weird process that is a no win proposition for the team or the player. If the team wins an arbitration hearing the player somehow feels undervalued and if the player should win the hearing then it could have huge financial implications to the team. It is obviously much better to try and avoid that whole process if you can. So when the Diamondbacks issued a press release on Friday I fully expected it to say that the team had provided the five with salary proposals and would be awaiting the upcoming hearings. It was instead an announcement where the team had come to terms with all players on contracts.

Each player received a one-year contract from the Diamondbacks. While the minimum length, I would have to say I agree that it makes the most sense to take a wait and see attitude for many of these players. Brandon Lyon for example was the eighth inning set-up man in 2007. It was a role he managed nicely and was very successful at it. Going into the 2008 season Lyon may find his role could remain the same or it could be substantially different. If Brandon Lyon is anointed as the Diamondbacks closer he would move into a different pay structure than if he continued to be a set-up man. Until his role is finally defined and he has shown that he is capable of managing the closer role it probably makes sense from the team’s perspective as well as from the player’s to sign a one-year contract. The very same argument could be made for Chad Qualls whom the Diamondbacks received in the Jose Valverde trade from Houston. He too is being considered as a potential closer and hence should be compensated accordingly. Unless something unforeseen happens his role will be undecided at least until after Spring Training which is too late for arbitration eligible players.

Infielder/Outfielder Chris Burke appears to be a man without a position. His versatility is extremely valuable but if you are the Diamondbacks you don’t want to overpay for a reserve player especially one who is new to your ball club. I am not quite sure I understand where Burke will fit with the team except for the fact that he can play more positions than Tony Clark whose roster spot Chris Burke took. Until we know what the long-term role is for Burke a single year deal probably makes the best business sense. Catcher Chris Snyder had a breakout season in 2007 and the numbers show that he became the Diamondbacks most consistent hitter over the second half of the season. The question is which Chris Snyder will the Diamondbacks see in 2008? Will it be the catcher that struggled offensively in the first couple months or will it be the productive hitter that they got used to after the All-Star break? I tend to think it is the latter but only time will tell and hence the one year contract. If Snyder gets hot to start the season I fully expect that the Diamondbacks will exchange contract numbers with Snyder’s agent for a longer term deal.

The most intriguing of the five was Orlando Hudson. Hudson who won his second Gold Glove for the Diamondbacks is an incredible player. He carried the Diamondbacks for the first two months of the season with his hot bat and even hotter glove. Not only is Orlando an important on-field member of the team but he is also the clubhouse leader now that Tony Clark has left. With a team as young as the Diamondbacks I think it is important to have a strong leader who will speak his mind to the younger players. Anyone who has spent any time around the Diamondbacks know that O-Dog will definitely speak his mind. Last season I expected the Diamondbacks to wrap up Hudson to a long-term contract. When they instead signed Eric Byrnes to an extension it seemed less likely that they would be able to keep both Hudson and Byrnes. Personally I would have make Hudson a much higher priority than Byrnes. I think the Diamondbacks would still love to try and sign Orlando but with a potential big pay-day after the 2008 season it appears that Hudson wants to explore the free agent market. So the Diamondbacks had little choice other than sign him to a one-year deal. I would hope they would remain in contact with Hudson’s representatives to try and find something that would keep him in Sedona Red for the foreseeable future. It’s hard to replace a gold glove fielder with leadership abilities like Hudson.

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