The Arizona Diamondbacks avoided arbitration with catcher Miguel Montero signing him to a one-year, $5.9 million deal according to Steve Gilbert of MLB.com. The deal was struck moments before the hearing was set to begin. Both sides have discussed a multi-year deal but have been unable to agree to terms. Montero will become a free agent after the 2012 season.
Montero, an All-Star in 2011, has established himself as one of the better hitting catchers in the league. Last season he hit .282 with 18 HR and 86 RBI. Montero is a career .271 hitter with a career OPS of .789.
Montero will not turn 29 until July of this season, so he seems to have many successful seasons ahead. Last season was certainly a breakout. He ranked T-4th in home runs, 2nd in RBI and 3rd in WAR among hitters on the D’backs. Montero led all National League catchers in doubles (36), RBI and slugging percentage (.469). He was second in the league among catchers in home runs and OPS (.821). He tied for 3rd in WAR.
Behind the plate Montero is no slouch. While his fielding percentage was slightly below league average for catcher and he allows a few too many passed balls, he led the league in caught stealing percentage with 40%.
Montero’s contract represents an excellent deal for the Diamondbacks. Should Montero duplicate his 2011 season, and there is no reason to suspect he cannot, the D’Backs will come out way ahead in terms of value that Montero gives them on the field. See the break even analysis below.
Montero will only have to muster a 1.2 WAR for next season in order to even out the salary he is earning. He should be able to blow by this figure provided he stays healthy. As a 28/29 year-old he is in the middle of his peak years with the bat. Using projections from Bill James via FanGraphs, and the simple WAR calculator provided by Lewie Pollis at Wahoo’s on First, Montero should check in with a WAR around 3.7 for 2012. James’ projections seem modest for Montero. I would not be surprised if he was able to sit between 4.5 and 5.
The Diamondbacks are wise to be looking ahead to see if they can land Montero for the next few seasons. He is not a detriment behind the plate and his bat will be above average for catchers during that period of time. Montero has said he is open to discussing an extension, but would hope to have it done before the middle of spring training.
“We’re open to listen,” Montero said. “We’re just going to listen and see where we’re at. And if it works out, it works out, and if it doesn’t work out right now, for sure they’re going to be my first option in the offseason.” via MLB.com
Montero will be among a few talented catchers entering free agency in 2013. Among them are some big names including Mike Napoli, Russell Martin and Yadier Molina. Combining Montero’s age and his undeniable abilities with the bat, a three year extension (beyond the current deal) for Montero could be a smart call for Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers. If Montero is able to maintain the level of productivity he showed in 2011, he would certainly bring more value to the team than he would cost in salary. It is up to the D’backs to decide if Montero is worth it.
For more on the Diamondbacks, check out Venom Strikes. Be sure to check out all of Call to the Pen’s transaction breakdowns for the 2011-12 offseason. You can follow Call to the Pen on Twitter at @FSCalltothePen or like us here on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed. You can follow Chris Carelli on Twitter at @Chris_Carelli.