Let’s Make a Deal

Once the Arizona Diamondbacks were eliminated from the Tanaka Sweepstakes or Curse of the Tanaka depending on your point of view of giving a player who has never thrown a pitch in the Major Leagues a seven-year, $155 million contract we all kind of expected the Diamondbacks to close the book on their off-season transaction log. It was therefore a little surprising that the team announced not one but three deals today.

Let's Make a DealThe first was perhaps the least intriguing when the Diamondbacks announced they had come to terms on a one-year contract with outfielder Gerardo Parra. Parra was eligible for salary arbitration with both parties exchanging numbers before the upcoming hearing.

When the arbitration figures were released Parra had asked for $5.2 million while the Diamondbacks countered with an offer of $4.3 million. With a difference of only $900,000 there were many who questioned why the Diamondbacks would not just meet Parra’s asking price and be done. Instead it looked as though this one would go to an arbitrator.

On social media there were many who were surprised then that the two parties agreed on a one-year contract worth $4.85 million settling somewhere in the middle. This shouldn’t have been a shock. The Diamondbacks in their history as a franchise have shown disdain for the arbitration process. Not that they feel the process is flawed, just that it is counter to their culture. There is just something counterproductive to a team and a player sitting in a room where the team argues they are not good enough for a big raise then once the hearing is over they praise the player as an important part of the roster.

In their entire existence the Diamondbacks have only gone to arbitration twice. Once in 1998 when they beat Jorge Fabregas and once in 2001 when they lost to Damian Miller. In the case of Fabregas, then owner Jerry Colangelo hated the process so badly that he gave Fabregas the salary he requested rather than the lower club number.

It has been my experience that if the exchanged figures represent a small difference, such as with Parra, that the team and player will settle for a one-year contract. If the two parties are far apart there is more incentive to sign a longer deal that will buy out the arbitration process beyond one year.

With Parra signed, the Diamondbacks have one remaining arbitration eligible player left unsigned – outfielder Mark Trumbo. The Trumbo situation is more interesting. There is a much greater difference with Trumbo’s camp asking for $5.85 million while the Diamondbacks countered with an offer of $3.44 million.

If we look just at the numbers the Diamondbacks offered to Parra and Trumbo it would appear as though the Diamondbacks value defense over offense as their offer to Parra was $1.9 million higher than for Trumbo. When asked for status on a Trumbo deal, Diamondbacks General Manager Kevin Towers stated there is still a substantial difference between the two sides but they continue talking.

The other two deals announced by the Diamondbacks were more of a surprise to me. Team CEO/President Derrick Hall announced they had agreed to extensions with General Manager Kevin Towers and Manager Kirk Gibson. This is surprising based on the fact that both had their options declined meaning they were entering their final year of their contracts.

Team owner Ken Kendrick had gone on record in November saying that both Towers and Gibson had to prove themselves again in order to be re-signed by the team. So what have we seen since that time that would warrant a change?

Hall explained that there was some concern that a lame duck contract for either the GM or the Manager would be a distraction going into the season. I can understand that. This is a fairly young roster and the last thing they need going into 2014 is to be asked about their manager’s contract status or whether every move being made by the GM was done to try and “save his job”.

This team has enough question marks without adding front-office contract concerns to the list. After finishing as a .500 team two years running this team is at a crossroads with the fan base so eliminating this variable from the equation makes sense.

What was most interesting about the announcement was that no one and I mean no one wants to talk about what the contract extension was. No details on salary or length of contract were disclosed. When asked about it, Towers was very to the point.

“I’ve thought all along, I don’t understand sometimes why people in management, why their contracts are public knowledge,” Towers said. “I think it’s something that people don’t need to have. It’s between myself, Derrick, Ken and Gibby.

“It’s really not something I plan on sharing with, not just you guys, but I don’t plan on sharing with the rest of my baseball-operations staff.”

I completely understand Towers sentiment. I am sure if it were any of us, we wouldn’t care much for our employer to publicly announce our salary figures or contract length. But this goes a little beyond that.

I always look at every year that, as a GM or as a manager — I know Gibby is the same way — regardless of whether I’ve got a seven-year deal, a 10-year deal or a one-year deal, our job is to go out and win. We feel we’re on the hot seat every year. I’m never going to become complacent.

– Kevin Towers

Looking around the Internet I was able to find the salary and contract information on roughly 2/3 of teams General Managers. So the Diamondbacks are not setting any precedent by not announcing the terms.

Towers quote that it didn’t matter whether he was on a seven, 10, or one-year deal was interesting. Why choose those numbers? Maybe my conspiracy theory paranoia is getting the best of me and we shouldn’t read anything into the comment.

On the surface Towers is saying it doesn’t matter how long his contract is, his style is to treat each year as if it is his last. That’s great; unless you have a long-term plan to build a team using home-grown talent through draft and development then you sometimes shoot yourself in the foot trading away young talent for established veterans.

I will give Towers credit; he is true to his word. Since joining the Diamondbacks he has had a tendency to make a lot of deals and he doesn’t show a lot of loyalty to the term “prospect” as witnessed by him trading away Jarrod Parker, Trevor Bauer, Matt Davidson, Adam Eaton, and Tyler Skaggs. It does have a win-now short-term gratification feel to it.

If we look at this from a team’s perspective, not disclosing the terms could be a way to evaluate both men without the distraction of this being the last year of a contract. What if it really is just a one-year deal? No one knows and the Diamondbacks have a limited monetary exposure if the team takes a step back.

It’s an interesting situation and I’m looking forward to seeing how this plays out as the season moves on. No one should be shocked if changes still occur, it will just look like a performance-based move, as it should be.

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