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05/26/12 11:00 PM ET
D-backs open wallet for Montero
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- Successful organizations in any professional sport have to take the long view at the same time they might be mired in the day-to-day optics of the short term.
That's exactly what the D-backs did on Saturday by locking up All-Star catcher Miguel Montero through his first five years of free agency at $60 million, the most money handed out to a player in the short 15-year history of the franchise.
"This move increases our payroll dramatically and a lot of our payroll is tied up in one player," D-backs president Derrick Hall said before the rematch against the Brewers at Chase Field. "For me, it just means we're going to have to get more creative and find more revenue. We've always said, as the revenue goes up so does the payroll on field. This is an example of that."
The D-backs are struggling, playing way below the expectations of a team that surprised many and made the playoffs last season. That may change in the months ahead. After all, it is only Memorial Day weekend. But in the long view, they now have two of their top young players -- Montero and right fielder Justin Upton -- tied into lengthy deals.
With $15 million in annual deferred payments -- largely to players from the World Series-winning 2001 team -- coming off the books next season, the D-backs should have ample money to do some other significant things.
The structure of Montero's contract aids and abets that particular approach. He'll earn $10 million each for 2013 and '14, $12 million in '15 and $14 million in both '16 and '17. He's making $5.9 million this season, so the increase for 2013 is $4.1 million. That leaves the D-backs with money to spend to further tie up young pitchers Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson, pick up a $6.5 million option on closer J.J. Putz and fill some holes in the lineup.
Like the Montero deal, those big-buck allocations will largely be made by upper management upon the recommendation of general manager Kevin Towers.
"It's our goal, hopefully, to continue raising payroll, but only if it makes economic sense," Hall said. "This one [Montero], we felt like we had to do. There are a lot of decisions to be made here."
Right now there is nothing but upside for the D-backs, who have a progressive ownership group and management team in place. Ticket sales are up 20 percent over last season when the team drew 2.1 million, Hall said. Their current television deal with FOX Sports Arizona is earning about $35 million per season and figures to increase dramatically when a new contract is signed in 2015.
FOX just gave the Angels $3 billion over 20 years -- matching the numbers they gave the Texas Rangers -- and the Padres $1.2 billion over the same term to create a new San Diego regional sports network. The Dodgers should garner upwards of $4 billion when they negotiate their deal later this year. The D-backs hope they can ride that wave.
"Yeah, I would think so," Hall said. "Whatever we do. Whether we extend or renew with FOX or do something on our own. Absolutely that's our largest potential new revenue stream for the future. But we also anticipate more ticket sales. We've had great attendance this year. Our ticket sales are way up. We'd like to win some of those home games. You don't want fans to leave disappointed. You want them to keep coming back. I'm confident they will."
That takes us back to the short term. The D-backs were a dominant 51-30 at home last year when they won 94 games and finished atop the National League West. Thus far this season they have seemingly lost their way at Chase Field by dropping 15 of their first 23 games and a dubious club record six series in a row. At 12-11 they are actually much better on the road.
At home, their .251 batting average is 20th overall in the Majors, their 93 runs are 17th and their 24 home runs are 13th. Last year at home -- with much the same personnel -- they were 11th in hitting at .262, sixth in runs scored with 400 and ninth with 93 homers. Quizzical, but no two seasons are the same.
"We're nowhere near pushing the panic button," Towers said. "You just have to take it game by game. The fortunate thing is the NL West is not very good right now. The Dodgers got off to a good start, but everybody's banged up and nobody's playing very well. We're going to have to start playing much better baseball if we want to get back to the playoffs. Hopefully we can start doing that sooner rather than later."
The D-backs payroll is at $75.4 million this season, a $19 million increase from 2011. That payroll is now only destined to continue going up. The money doesn't necessarily guarantee winning, but it does buy stability and the probability of remaining competitive, which is all any fan can ask.
That, in fact, is the long view, which is what the D-backs are taking.