When needed, D-backs flexible with payroll
Ownership expanded budget to sign left-hander Joe Saunders
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The D-backs stretched their budget this offseason when they elected to sign left-hander Joe Saunders to a one-year, $6 million deal in January.
The signing increased the payroll to nearly $80 million. Team president/CEO Derrick Hall praised the club's ownership group, led by managing general partner Ken Kendrick, for giving the go-ahead.
"Especially in a year that's going to be a bridge year before we get to a lot of the young talent that's knocking on the door, this was an important year to hopefully sustain that level of performance that we had," Hall said. "In order to do so, we felt that we had to increase payroll a little bit and to have ownership willing to do so, we're very lucky."
The D-backs may not be done spending, either. Kendrick seemed to indicate that there would be more money made available if the team is in contention and there is a player or players on the market that could help prior to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
"I hope we have that problem," Kendrick said about finding room in the budget. "You like to think you have a plan, and we do. And we'll let the season play out, and if we have needs, then we'll deal with them later in the year."
Praising D-backs, Kendrick looks ahead
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Ken Kendrick addressed the D-backs before their workout on Monday, and the managing general partner hit on a familiar storyline.
"The theme for me for this year is 'unfinished business,'" Kendrick said. "I talked to them about that, because last year was a great year, but you play this to try and go all the way. I think we have the talent in the room that has the potential to do that and the leadership, so let's get it done."
Typically, Kendrick speaks to the team before its first full-squad workout, which was on Saturday, but he was out of town at a prior commitment.
While the focus was on the year ahead, it was the first time Kendrick had been able to address the group since its season ended in heartbreaking fashion against the Brewers in Game 5 of the National League Division Series.
"I wanted them to hear from me personally how much what they did last year meant, and I wanted to thank them," Kendrick said. "It meant a lot to me that you could take a team with essentially new leadership, from general manger to manager and a lot of different guys wearing the uniform, and go from being a last-place team to winning the division and winning it convincingly, and playing great baseball in the playoffs. It's something I'm real proud of, and I think our community is proud of it."
Last season, the D-backs came into Spring Training with relatively low expectations after back-to-back last-place finishes, but this year, they have been picked by many to win the NL West.
"A lot of people think that, but you have to go out on the field and play the games," Kendrick said. "So we sure hope we're the best. That's what we want to be. Our competition has improved. Other teams in our division that didn't do as well as they wanted tried to get better, and I think several of them have."
Committed to affordability, D-backs a hit at box office
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- D-backs team president/CEO Derrick Hall said on Monday that the organization has sold around 1,300 new season-ticket packages and the renewal rate from last year was near 90 percent. Single-game tickets went on sale Monday.
"There's definitely been some momentum," said Hall, whose team is coming off a National League West title. "Very favorable, especially in this economy."
With gas prices on the rise and expected to get even higher during the summer, Hall is confident that the team will do well at the box office.
"Our affordability has always played a key role in being an attractive entertainment option for our fans," Hall said. "When they're looking for an affordable option of entertainment with an air-conditioned environment, it's often Chase Field."
Hall added that in the past, it has worked with the club's corporate sponsors to have things like gas card incentives for season-ticket holders or groups, and that it could look to do that again.
"We're sensitive to the economy," managing general partner Ken Kendrick said. "We've been dealing with a tough economy in Arizona now for four or five years and we've prevailed during that time, and I'm confident we'll do fine this year. The Diamondbacks have always prided ourselves on having the most affordable tickets and having the most affordable experience, and while gas prices may be more, we're still very affordable and we hope the fans will come out, because we think we're going to be a contending club."
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.