The payroll numbers don't lie and they tell a very disturbing story for the 2014 Arizona Diamondbacks and their potential fortunes for the upcoming season.
Arizona looks to be on the books for roughly $104 million for the upcoming season, which on the surface might seem like a realistic number for a middle-market franchise like the D'Backs. Looking at the numbers a little deeper and it is easy to see why D'Backs ownership might have been initially reluctant to pick up the option of general manager Kevin Towers.
Towers has done an extremely poor job of spending the team's money and identifying players to sign and build around. Of the $104 million, Towers has spent roughly $27.6 million trying to sign the same type of pitcher. First it was Trevor Cahill, then it was Brandon McCarthy. Towers must now hope that the third time is the charm with the recent signing of Bronson Arroyo, which was first reported by 98.7 Arizona Sports' John Gambadoro.
Having Arroyo is fine, but paying all three pitchers roughly $27 million combined this season really hurts trying to build the rest of the roster.
The outfield is another area where the D'Backs have spent money with very little return to speak of. Last season, the team signed Cody Ross, eventually to replace the departed Justin Upton. The only problem is that Ross was injured for most of the season and enters this season as a giant question mark as he recovers from a bad hip injury suffered last August.
Ross sits on the books at $9.5 million for this season and next. Ross will also likely sit on the bench with the D'Backs having acquired Mark Trumbo earlier this winter and the re-signing of outfielder Gerardo Parra. Even with the $19.1 million tied up in Ross, Trumbo and Parra, the D'Backs will still likely receive below-average production from their outfield this season and Trumbo's defense will be a concern in left field.
The D'Backs need catcher Miguel Montero to have a serious rebound season in 2014 or legitimate questions will continue to be raised about his five-year deal for $60 million and how little return that Arizona has seen on its investment so far.
The money spent on Ross, Parra, Montero, Trumbo, McCarthy, Cahill and Arroyo comes out to be $56.8 million this season, with only Trumbo looking like a potential core player past 2014. Throw in the $22 million due to Martin Prado and Aaron Hill and the $7 million golden parachute given to J.J. Putz this season, and the D'Backs will have over $85.8 million tied up in just 10 players.
It means that the D'Backs have less then $20 million left to fill out the rest of the holes on the roster this season, illustrating the potential lack of depth that might hurt the team by continuing to trade prospects and young cost-controlled players.
The masterstroke from Towers was getting a contract extension done with legitimate star Paul Goldschmidt before his breakout season in 2013. It was something that I advocated last March and something the team finally got done at the end of last March (ESPN story). Goldschmidt was one of the biggest bargains in sports last season outside of the Los Angeles Angels' Mike Trout, producing a ridiculous 7.1 WAR on a contract that paid him only $500,000.
Outside of Trout, you could make the argument that Goldschmidt has the best contract in baseball over the next three seasons, with the D'Backs on the hook for a little over $10 million through the 2016 season. It's value that the D'Backs will need, given the inefficient spending on the rest of the roster.
It is also shows how much pressure there is on pitching prospect Archie Bradley to be as good as advertised when he finally makes the D'Backs rotation and how Arizona can ill-afford Patrick Corbin to have a sophomore slump in his second season.
While $104 million might sound like a lot of money, it needs to be spent on the right players. If the D'Backs are going to contend in the future, it is something that they need to keep in the forefront of every deal that they make and every contract that they sign moving forward.
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