The Diamondbacks are returning to the good old days, at least in terms of spending.
With the final offseason signings of free agents outfielder Jason Kubel and left-hander Joe Saunders, the D-backs' on-field payroll should easily surpass $70 million in 2012. If it reaches $76 million, it would represent management's largest salary commitment since 2003, when the D-backs were coming off back-to-back NL West titles and were two years removed from their only World Series championship.
Of course, the $80 million team salary in 2003 ranked among the top third of all MLB teams. An $80 million team salary in 2012 might still rank among the bottom third of team payrolls.
The D-backs spent just over $56 million on the 25-man roster in winning the NL West last season, and the original working budget for 2012 was in the low $60 million range. The decision to step up was due in part to the expectation of larger home attendance than the 2.1 million in 2011, a number that did not skew up until the D-backs took control of the division in August.
"We felt we wanted to plug some holes, and if were a little more conservative than we needed to be in our projections of revenue, which in my opinion we were, hopefully we make up for it," team president/CEO Derrick Hall told FOXSportsArizona.com. "It's a gamble. It's a risk. But it's one we were willing to take, because we, like a lot of our fans, were excited about the way we finished last year and want to build on it."
General manager Kevin Towers signed Kubel to a two-year, $15 million deal on December 19. The D-backs moved on after receiving no decision from right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, who had been sitting on a one-year, $13 million offer for weeks.
"'KT' asked if we were willing to go to Plan B, Plan B being offense. And when he told us his idea with Kubel, we were just as excited as he was," Hall said. "We lean on him and his people for their opinion on players and they felt in our ballpark and our environment he would be a nice addition, so we were willing to stretch it a bit to improve the overall product."
"It just made sense to invest in that area," continued Hall. "We could have found a guy who is maybe coming back for injury or near the end of his career at, say $1-3 million, or you could stretch it a bit and bring in a guy who you know, you know well, who is going to eat innings and that is a popular guy and was part of last year's success. Six million is a bargain."
--RHP Brad Ziegler and the D-backs reached agreement on a one-year, $1.795 million contract to avoid the arbitration on January 24. Ziegler, acquired from Oakland at trading deadline last July 31, throws from the side, and the unorthodox delivery made him extremely difficult on right-handed hitters last season. Ziegler held righties to a .188 batting average, one of the lowest marks in the major leagues.
--President/CEO Derrick Hall and general manager Kevin Towers attended the Baseball Writers Association of America awards dinner the third weekend of January in New York City, when manager Kirk Gibson was presented with the NL Manager of the Year award. "He did a terrific job," Hall said. "He was very humbled by it." Gibson told the group that he learned the proper way to play -- and treat the game -- from his first major league manager, Sparky Anderson.
--1B/OF Daryle Ward, who last played with the D-backs' Class AA Mobile affiliate in 2011, was suspended for 50 games after testing positive for a banned substance. Ward, signed from the independent Canadian-American Association when the D-backs promoted 1B Paul Goldschmidt to the majors on August 1, hit .318 with two home runs and 18 RBI in 28 games with Mobile, which won the Southern League title. He was not under contract at the time of his suspension. He last played in the majors in 2008.
--C Craig Tatum was claimed off waivers from Houston on January 23, filling a D-backs need for a veteran reserve to add depth in the system. Tatum, 28, hit .245 with seven RBI in 31 games with Baltimore last season and has played in 100 major league games over the last three seasons with Cincinnati (2009) and the Orioles (2009-10). He adds a fourth catcher to the 40-man roster, now at its capacity.
DIAMOND STAT: $75 million -- ballpark estimate of the D-backs' 2012 payroll for the 25-man roster, about a 33 percent increase from 2011.
QUOTABLE: "It's a gamble. It's a risk. But it's one we were willing to take, because we, like a lot of our fans, were excited about the way we finished last year and want to build on it." -- D-backs team president/CEO Derrick Hall, on spending about $10 million more the originally budgeted on 2012 player salaries
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