As the big names — Johan Santana, Dan Haren, Erik Bedard — get tossed around baseball’s winter meetings like a dandelion in a windstorm, I’m thinking about a big man.
Why hasn’t Tony Clark re-signed with the Diamondbacks?
It should be a slam dunk.
Clark lives in the Valley and wants to return for a fourth season.
Arizona would like to have him back as well, not only for his left-handed bat (17 homers, 51 RBIs in 221 at-bats last season) but his leadership in the clubhouse.
Yet as the calendar creeps toward 2008 and spring training, there’s an unsettling silence from both parties. And that can only mean one thing:
Clark wearing Sedona red in ’08 may not be the sure thing everyone thought it once was.
The holdup is about — what else — money. It seems Clark and his agent, John Boggs, want a two-year deal worth $2 million per season. The Diamondbacks are willing to give Clark the two years but at their price: a modest raise from the $1.034 million he made last season.
So let me get this straight: For about $750,000 per year — which, in baseball terms, is money found under the couch cushions — Arizona is going to risk losing the most influential player in its clubhouse.
Look, I get the Diamondbacks are on a fixed budget. And I understand that Clark may see even less playing time next season if Chad Tracy returns from knee surgery and takes some of his at-bats.
But we’re talking about a player who not only was the team’s best late-inning pinch-hitter, but a man who was a 6-foot-7 Yoda for youngsters such as Chris Young, Mark Reynolds and Justin Upton.
This is what Young had to say about Clark last October:
“The times we’ve been struggling he’s gotten us all together and talked to us and got our spirits a lot higher. Without him here we may not be in the position we’re in.”
And that’s not worth $750,000 a season?
There’s been speculation that Clark wants to sign with an American League team — Boggs has had preliminary conversations with the Minnesota Twins, Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers — because he could get 400 at-bats as a designated hitter.
That’s just a backup plan.
Those who know Clark say his first choice is to re-sign with the Diamondbacks. This is his home and Arizona is his best chance — at least compared to the Twins, Rays and Rangers — to win a World Series.
Diamondbacks general manager Josh Byrnes said Tuesday from the winter meetings in Nashville, Tenn., that there was nothing new to report regarding negotiations with Clark.
Apparently, the Diamondbacks are hoping Boggs will shop his client around, not find a deal to their liking and come back and accept Arizona’s offer.
That’s a dangerous game to play.
For as illogical as this may sound, given Clark’s part-time role, I firmly believe it’s true:
The Diamondbacks won’t win 90 games next season without Clark.
They won’t win the National League West Division title.
They won’t make a second consecutive trip to the postseason.
In fact, I’m willing to bet $750,000 on it.
Are the Diamondbacks?
Listen to Scott Bordow every Monday at 3:25 p.m. on The Fan (1060 AM) with Bob Kemp.