The Arizona Diamondbacks have given 28-year-old catcher Miguel Montero a five-year extension worth $60 million, and it is the biggest contract in Diamondbacks history. Montero was worth 4.4 WAR last season in a career year, as his previous high was 2.8 WAR in 2010. He was set to hit free agency this offseason, but the D’Backs made it a priority to re-sign Montero and were willing to work on a deal during the season.
In February, the Diamondbacks offered Montero a four-year deal worth $32 million, which would have been a steal for the D’Backs. Montero, however, wanted a deal similar to what Victor Martinez received with the Detroit Tigers (four years and $50 million), which is closer to his value. The huge deal given to Yadier Molina by the St. Louis Cardinals (five years and $75 million) upped the bar for catchers and likely contributed to the five-year pact.
Miguel Montero is now the fifth highest paid catcher in baseball on a per year basis, and he has the skills to back that up. He is regarded as one of the best defensive catchers in baseball, and he has led all catchers in CS% in each of the past two seasons. His offense is also of great value, as Montero had a .351 OBP last season with 18 homers and a 116 wRC+ (.351 wOBA). Those totals are of great value for a catcher.
The left-handed hitter and right-handed thrower will turn 29 in July (29 when the extension kicks in next year), and he has dealt with injuries. Paying $12 million per year for Montero isn’t a problem at all (more on that later), but giving him five years is risky. It is better to give him one year less but a little more money per year, because he is getting older and catchers decline steeper than other positional players (another thing that makes having a good one so valuable).
If he is worth 4 WAR in 2013, then here is how we should expect him to produce over this contract.
2013 (29): 4 WAR
2014: 3.5 WAR
2015 (31): 2.5 WAR
2016: 2 WAR
2017 (33): 2 WAR
That projection is fair, and it has Montero steadily digressing from being one of the best catchers in baseball to a league-average player. There is more of a chance that he outperforms the projection above in the first two years of this contract than the final two. It takes into account decreased value due to injury risk as well.
Based on that above projection, Miguel Montero will be worth 14 WAR over those five seasons or about 2.8 WAR per year. At $12 million per year, he is expected to be worth 2.6 WAR each year in this contract if $4.6 million equates to one win.
With that general conversion in mind, Montero should be worth about $64.5 million in those five seasons based on the projection above. This means that the Diamondbacks and Montero came to a fair agreement that is mutually beneficial for both parties. Catchers who are good hitters and play great defense have immense value in this league, and locking one up (especially if they are one of the team’s best players and fan favorites) is paramount.
The Diamondbacks managed to do this without overpaying, and they saved about $5 million overall by making this deal. Would it have been better to play it safe and give him one less year? Yes. Each year on a contract (especially past three years) exponentially increases the chances of a deal turning badly. However, Arizona paid him $12 million per year, which isn’t that much money when you think about it; he would have certainly gained more if he hit free agency.
Although this extension likely means the end of the Stephen Drew era in Arizona, I bet most people would rather have Miguel Montero than Drew on their team. This was a good deal for both parties, and getting the extension done will help out Montero and the club. There is always at least a little bit of uncertainty in a player’s mind and some anxiousness in a contract year, so getting him locked up will likely help Montero and the rest of the team out mentally. Some big-name catchers get overpaid these days, but Montero isn’t one of them; he deserves every bit of his fifth-highest annual value deal.