Arizona signs Drew to 2-year, $13.75 million deal
The Arizona Diamondbacks avoided arbitration with Stephen Drew by signing the shortstop to a two-year, $13.75 million contract Tuesday.
The deal includes a mutual option for a third year at a salary of $10 million. Arizona also signed arbitration-eligible left-hander Joe Saunders to a one-year, $5.5 million contract.
In addition, the Diamondbacks signed a pair of free agents: utility man Willie Bloomquist got a one-year, $900,000 contract with a mutual option for 2012, and right-hander Aaron Heilman re-signed with Arizona for one year and $2 million. General manager Kevin Towers said Heilman was signed with the assurance he would get to compete for a spot in the starting rotation.
Arizona still has two players in arbitration - second baseman Kelly Johnson and catcher Miguel Montero. Johnson asked for $6.5 million Tuesday while the team offered $4.7 million, and Montero requested $3.4 million with the Diamondbacks countering at $2.8 million.
Towers said he was hopeful of reaching an agreement with the two players but said ''it gets a little bit more dicey once you file numbers.''
The 27-year-old Drew is a .272 career hitter in 4 1/2 seasons with Arizona. He has 65 home runs, 276 RBIs and 147 doubles. He also had a career-best .984 fielding percentage last year with a career-low 10 errors.
Drew fell to Arizona's pick, the 15th overall, in the 2004 draft because of concerns others had about signing him. His older brother, Boston's J.D. Drew, who sat out an entire season after he was drafted by Philadelphia in 1997, then re-entered the draft and was selected by St. Louis in 1998.
Towers, who joined the Diamondbacks in the offseason, said the length of the Drew contract evolved during the negotiations.
''We had a really hard time kind of agreeing on what the one-year number was,'' he said. ''The shortstop position is a very tough position to fill, especially a premium shortstop like him, who I think is one of the top shortstops in the National League.''
Towers noted that the team has a top prospect in shortstop Chris Owings ''but he's probably a couple years away.''
Drew gets $4.65 million this year and $7.75 million in 2012. The mutual option for 2013 comes with a $1.35 million buyout.
Saunders came to Arizona on July 25 as part of the five-player trade that sent right-hander Dan Haren to the Los Angeles Angels. Saunders was 9-17 overall in 33 starts with a 4.17 ERA with the two teams last season. He was 3-7 with a 4.25 ERA in 13 starts with Arizona.
The versatile Bloomquist, who played college ball at Arizona State, can be the backup at shortstop and second base as well as play in the outfield. He hit .267 with 31 runs scored, three home runs and 17 RBIs with Kansas City and Cincinnati last season. He has a .264 career average in parts of nine major league seasons.
Towers calls Bloomquist ''just a gritty, gutsy little player that can play just about anywhere.''
''A strong character, too,'' Towers said. ''We're trying to create a little bit better culture to our clubhouse and we just added another quality individual to our team.''
Heilman, 5-8 with a 4.70 ERA in 72 innings of relief with Arizona, could have signed for more money elsewhere, Towers said, but wanted to go somewhere that would at least give him a shot at starting.
''We're willing to give him an opportunity to go battle it out against guys like (Zach) Duke and (Barry) Enright and see if he can win the job,'' Towers said. ''If he doesn't, we certainly didn't give him any guarantees. If not, he would go back in the 'pen.''