Tony Clark spent Sunday morning cleaning out the locker at Chase Field that he hoped would be his last as a major leaguer, a chore he neither wanted nor expected.
Clark packed his TV and audio equipment, the small shelving unit that held his laptop and had slots for mail and other paperwork, and the pictures of his family, finishing in the tradition of those who had used the cubicle before him — Jay Bell and Luis Gonzalez — by signing his name in a hidden spot.
“It was difficult,” Clark said.
“I had really hoped my home team would be my last stop.”
But after a two-month negotiation process that never reached resolution, the fallout from the Diamondbacks’ flurry of Friday trades left free agent Clark squeezed off the roster.
Clark was informed of the D-Backs’ intent Wednesday, two days before they announced three trades, including one in which they acquired infielder/outfielder Chris Burke from Houston in a package for closer Jose Valverde. Burke will fill Clark’s spot.
“I’m disappointed. I’m saddened,” said Clark, who makes his home in the west Valley.
“The last phone call I expected was one where they would say, ‘We expect you to decide in the next 24 to 48 hours if you will accept this deal.’ ”
Clark said he believed there was an implicit agreement from both sides that there would be a final consultation between himself and the team.
The D-Backs, however, seemed to feel that their two-year, $3 million offer had been on the table long enough for Clark to decide if it was fair, given the fact he would have a more limited role in 2008. He was seeking two years at $4 million.
“This is a business. I’ve been around long enough to not be too surprised with decisions regarding me moving forward. I do my best to respect those decisions,” Clark said.
“We talked as the season wound down. We made an offer. The offer was on the table for a long time. It showed itself to be solid,” said D-Backs general manager Josh Byrnes, noting free agent Matt Stairs signed a two-year deal worth $3.25 million with Toronto this offseason.
“My sense is, we gave the process every chance to work itself out.”
So Conor Jackson, Mark Reynolds and Chad Tracy will be the lone corner infielders on the roster, with Jackson playing first base, Reynolds third and Tracy swinging between both.
Clark, 35, revived his career by hitting 30 home runs in his first season here in 2005 after accepting a $750,000 contract to play at home.
He hit 53 home runs in his three seasons here, averaging one every 13.25 at-bats despite playing most of 2006 with a sore right shoulder that eventually required surgery.
Clark was lauded by teammates last year not only for his strong offensive contributions (17 homers in 221 at-bats) but also for his clubhouse presence as the D-Backs won the NL West.
“I can’t say it’s not a tough loss. We would not have gotten to the playoffs without Tony Clark last year,” said Eric Byrnes, whose locker was next to Clark’s.
“We lost 17 home runs and 51 RBIs from a team that wasn’t that productive on offense. We’re going to have to pick up the slack as a unit. We definitely have the talent. I’m going to miss him.”
Clark, a switch-hitter used primarily against right-handed pitchers, hit three home runs and 10 RBIs as a pinch hitter last year, and had eight homers and 34 RBIs as a pinch hitter in his three seasons with the D-Backs.
The D-Backs can turn to Miguel Montero, Jeff Salazar and Tracy, when he does not start, as left-handed hitters off the bench.
While conducting players’ union business in Hawaii a week ago, Clark said he decided to offer the D-Backs a compromise contract proposal that would cost him financially but would tie him to the team for the rest of his playing career, and perhaps beyond.
He never had a chance to make that offer, however.
Lots of pop
Top ratios of home runs per at-bat over the past three seasons in the major leagues:
Ratio Player Team
11.2 Ryan Howard Philadelphia
12.6 David Ortiz Boston
12.7 Barry Bonds San Francisco
12.9 Alex Rodriguez Yankees
13.25 Tony Clark D-Backs
13.27 Jim Thome White Sox
13.6 Adam Dunn Cincinnati
13.9 Albert Pujols St. Louis
15.0 Prince Fielder Milwaukee
15.2 Lance Berkman Houston