PHOENIX – As expected, the Diamondbacks declined veteran catcher Henry Blanco’s $1.24 million option for 2013, reaffirming the notion that they would like second catcher who they feel would be more suited to an extended work load in case starter Miguel Montero missed significant injury time.
The D-backs also declined a $4 million option on right-hander Matt Lindstrom, no surprise after they accepted closer J.J. Putz’s $6.5 million option and traded for late-inning specialist Heath Bell. They will pay $13 million of the remaining $21 million on the final two years of Bell’s contract.
The D-backs had exploratory talks with Wil Nieves before the season ended about returning, but it also appears that they also will look into the free agent market for a reserve catcher. Nieves, 35, hit .306 in 36 at-bats after joining the D-backs on Aug. 8, two days after Blanco was lost for the season. He spent the first part of the season with Colorado.
Yorvit Torrealba, 34, is the biggest name in the free agent catching market among right-handed hitters, but it is uncertain if the D-backs’ could afford him. He made $3.25 million in the second of a two-year deal while bouncing between Texas, Toronto and Milwaukee last season. Torrealba hit .227 with four homers and 14 RBIs in 2012. In his first year with Texas, he hit .273 with seven homers and 37 RBIs.
Blanco, 41, was one of Towers’ first free agent signs before the 2011 season as he worked to reshape the team culture, and he had a strong year, hitting .250 with eight homers in 100 at-bats. Blanco hit .188 in 64 at-bats last season before missing the final two months with a fractured left thumb suffered on a play at the plate in Philadelphia on Aug. 6.
Lindstrom, acquired in the Joe Saunders trade last August, will receive a $200,000 buyout.
Asked about Lindstrom at his season-ending press conference, D-backs general manager Kevin Towers said: “We are not the Los Angeles Dodgers or the New York Yankees, so how we allocate our dollars is very important … should we spend our money on someone like Lindstrom, or should we spend our money on someone like a shortstop? I don’t have that answer.”