D-backs avoid arbitration with Montero, Roberts

PHOENIX — Miguel Montero and Ryan Roberts received their money and all parties involved are relieved in bypassing a salary arbitration hearing when the Diamondbacks spent almost $8 million on the two players Tuesday.

Montero agreed to a one-year contract worth $5.9 million five minutes before his arbitration hearing was to begin, after a series of talks between his agents and D-backs general manager Kevin Towers. This included a midnight meeting Monday and a breakfast chat early Tuesday. Meanwhile, Roberts signed a one-year deal worth $2.0125 million.

“It is a relief,” Montero said. “We feel happy with what we got. I’m happy with the Diamondbacks because they did everything possible to get it done before I walked in, because it is not a good situation to walk in there. I really don’t even want to go. In the end, everything worked out perfect.”

Montero asked for $6.8 million and the D-backs had offered $5.4 million. At a hearing, a panel would have selected one of those figures after arguments from both sides. 

While the immediate work is over, Montero and the D-backs are not done talking. The sides seem committed to working out a long-term contract and are expected to resume talks during spring training. Montero set a March 20 deadline on the process.

“We’re going to listen and see where we are at,” he said. “If it works out, it works out. If it doesn’t out right now, for sure they are going to be my first option in the offseason.

“I would like to stop talking late in spring training. I’m going to try to not talk any more about long term after March 20, just because I want to prepare myself mentally for the season. I don’t want anything to bother me to start my season.”

Montero, 28, had a career year in his first injury-free season as a starter 2011. He led National League catchers and was second among major league catchers with 36 doubles and 86 RBI. He also threw out a higher percentage of base stealers (40 percent) than any regular in the NL. He made $3.2 million last year.

Montero’s numbers compare favorably with those of St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina and Atlanta catcher Brian McCann, although the situations are different because Molina ($7 million team option this season) and McCann ($8.5 million this year, $12 million team option in 2013) are at the end of long-term contracts, not the beginning.

Towers indicated the teams never really got close on a long-term deal over the winter.

“I would say there is probably more of a gap on dollars vs. term, but we’ve got a lot more time to work that out than we did over the last couple of weeks,” Towers said.

“It is still something that we want to do. I think it is something they want to do. I normally don’t like to negotiate during a season. I want the focus to be on the team and playing games. Hopefully we can re-engage once again. We were quite a bit apart on a multiyear deal, but I think Miguel likes it here and we like him here. 

“Hopefully we can get something done prior to the end of the season. Like arbitration, both sides have to make concessions and go to places they don’t normally want to go to make that happen. It might be a little more complex, but I can certainly assure you there will be effort on our side as well as I think their side to try to make that happen. “

Roberts almost quintupled his salary in his first year of arbitration eligibility after making $423,500 during his career year last year, when he was one home run and two stolen bases short of a 20-20 season while winning the third-base job. 

“I’m not going to lie and say I didn’t think about it every single day,” Roberts said with his typical candor.

“It’s definitely on my mind. I think the offseason went by really fast, but that certain thing seemed to take forever. I guess it is just because I thought about it so much. You just want to get it over and done with and move forward. When it gets there, it’s all you can think about. You wake up and wonder ‘What’s going on today? What are they talking about today?’ It’s a relief to get that over and done with.”

The D-backs have one more arbitration case pending. New left-hander Craig Breslow has asked for $2.1 million and the D-backs filed at $1.5 million. 

Towers has had only had two cases go to a hearing in his 15 seasons as a general manager.

“Both sides win any time you can avoid the process,” he said. “We want the focus to be on the ballclub and preparing for the 2012 season. Both Ryan and Miguel are integral parts not only of the ballclub we had last year but we think a big part of the good club we think will be taking the field in 2012.”

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