|Miguel Montero will have some more scratch to feed his family. Was he worth it? (Getty Images)|
|More on Montero deal|
-- The laws of supply and demand favor any solid catcher now. There are precious very good two-way catchers, and it is fair to say he is one of them.
-- The Diamondbacks weren't bargaining from strength in that they have no great backup plan (their backup is 40-year-old Henry Blanco and they are as thin as many teams at the position). It's fair to say they feared losing Montero.
-- The Diamondbacks didn't love the free-agent catching class. With the Phillies sure to pick up Carlos Ruiz's $5 million option and the Braves all but certain to pick up Brian McCann's $12 million option, they believed that left the Yankees' Russell Martin as their best free agent option, and Martin will still probably get $7 million to 8 million a year in free agency despite a batting average that is currently below .200. Texas' Mike Napoli is a terrific offensive catcher but the Diamondbacks apparently view him as more of an American League player.
Yes, it's fair to say that with so few good MLB-proven two-way catchers, the catching market has gone a little nuts.
Montero has only two home runs and he's struck out 39 times so far this year. He is much better than that (and he has other better numbers to prove it -- see below), but it's fair to say intangibles played into Montero's case. The D-Backs view him as their leader, and they didn't want to lose him.
Yadier Molina is a big star who has helped the Cardinals to two World Series titles (yes, of course, Albert Pujols was a much bigger reason for those championships), and he got a $75 million, five-year contract this spring that was negotiated by Melvin Roman and David Schwartz, who previously worked at Octagon. That deal shocked a few folks at the time, but Molina is an extraordinary two-way catcher who's considered the best defensive catcher in the game.
Montero, 29, surely benefited from Molina's deal, as Montero's earlier offer wasn't anywhere in this ballpark. But while Montero is a very good catcher, he isn't Molina. Roman suggested at the time of Molina's agreement that he told Molina he could have done way better than $75 million had he waited for free agency (maybe even close to double that), and while some doubted that, Roman appears prescient now. Molina is a special player.
One question to answer now is whether Montero is 80 percent the player Molina is, because Montero appears to have argued successfully to get only 20 percent less than Molina. I don't think he is. But Montero can offer up some numbers to suggest he has a case to say he is.
Montero has thrown out 39.2 percent of would-be basestealers since the start of the 2011 season, the best mark in basbeall. Following him on the list, in order, are Matt Wieters, Kelly Shoppach, Jose Molina. Lou Marson, Nick Hundley, Napoli, Yorvit Torrrealba, Ramon Hernandez, Drew Butera, and Molina in 11th place.
Montero is also second in innings caught to Molina since the start of 2011. And he leads all catches in RBI in that time with 105, ahead of J.P. Arencibia (102), Alex Avila (102), McCann (93) and Molina (88).
Montero made major improvements in his game the past couple years. His own team is obviously sold on him. Others are impressed but more skeptical of the dollars. Here is what some competing executives think:
"I thought it was too much for Montero, but I can understand it from an Arizona perspective,'' one competing GM said. "There's a lack of catchers in the game. But they're likely to regret that before five years are up.''
Another said: "It's high. He's not that good. But it shows you how much catching is valued in the industry.''
However, a third competing GM was all in on Montero.
"I love Montero. Great guy. Real leadership qualities. I think the deal is fine. Obviously, there's some risk,'' that GM said.
Ultimately, that's the way the Diamondbacks saw it, too. Even though Montero isn't a superstar, ultimately they believed they could not take a chance on losing a solid two-way catcher and hoping they could come close to what they already had.