Originally posted on The Outside Corner  |  Last updated 3/1/12

Another day, another Bad Spring Training Roster Decision of the Day.  Today's nominee comes to us straight from the front office of the defending NL West champion Arizona Diamondbacks who announced today that they have called off contract extension talks with their All-Star catcher Miguel Montero.

Bad idea?  Oh yeah.

Contract extension talks get called off all the time during spring training, but this particular cessation of negotiations could prove to be a lethal blow to Arizona's hopes of maintaining long-term success.  With talks now halted between the D'Backs and Montero, it is all but a certainty that he will hit the open market when his current contract expires at the end of this season.  That means the Diamondbacks, who operate on a modest budget, are inviting a bidding war for their All-Star backstop. 

Quality defensive catchers who can hit well seldom ever come available on the open market, much less right in the middle of their prime.  Yet that is exactly what Montero is now poised to do.  He's going to get paid and he's going to get paid a lot and it probably won't be Diamondback checks that he'll be cashing (or direct depositing, I would hate to think he takes $50,000 checks to the drive-up ATM).

Arizona, barring a major change in their financial philosophy, just doesn't have the flexibility to give Montero what he is asking for.  That is only partly their fault.  They might have had the necessary funds available had they not inexplicably forked over a $16 million contract to Jason Kubel this off-season, that much is for sure.  The rest of the fault can be assigned to Yadier Molina.  With his rumored five-year, $75 million extension coming down the pipe, Montero and his agent no doubt got dollar signs in their eyes.  Montero isn't the defensive catcher that Molina is (but neither is anyone else), but he is arguably a superior hitter and inarguably a year younger.

In that respect, it is hard to blame GM Kevin Towers for hitting the eject button on contract talks with Montero.  That kind of annual salary, $15 million per year or whatever similar number Montero was surely asking for, would make Montero the team's highest paid player, which likely wouldn't sit too well with franchise player Justin Upton.  But by not paying Montero, they create a different problem.  The D'Backs don't have anything resembling a viable replacement ready to take over for Montero in their farm system, so they are going to have to cough up money and/or prospects to acquire a replacement.

In hindsight, Kevin Towers should have been more proactive about getting an extension done with Montero so that other prospective free agent catchers like Molina and Mike Napoli didn't set the market first.  But he didn't.  And Molina did.  And now Towers is only compounding the problem by calling off talks now rather than keeping a dialogue open throughout the season. 

Like I said, bad idea.

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This article first appeared on The Outside Corner and was syndicated with permission.

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