As expected, the Arizona Diamondbacks signed new third baseman Martin Prado to a four-year, $40 million contract extension Jan. 31, maximizing their return in the seven-player trade that sent Justin Upton and Chris Johnson to the Atlanta Braves for Prado and four prospects the previous week.
The D-backs' payroll for the 40-man roster should be about $91 million this season after Prado agreed to play for $7 million in 2013, almost exactly the salary he sought when in his final year of arbitration. Prado asked for $7.05 million, and Atlanta offered him $6.65 million. Prado will receive $11 million annually from 2014-16, which would have been first three free agent years.
"Since I got to the big leagues, I've been looking for security, to be in the right spot and not have to worry about going to free agency. I'm going to play more relaxed. I think we made a good deal. I made a good decision, and I am happy," Prado said.
Prado, 29, has talked with new manager Kirk Gibson only briefly, but he spoke reverentially about what others have told him.
"From what I heard, he's an aggressive guy. He likes the little things. He likes to move the runners. And I like that, man," said Prado, who hit .301 with a career-high 42 doubles last season while leading the National League with 60 multi-hit games. "He understands. He played the game a long time ago. He played the game the right way. He likes those guys. If we have a leader like him and we follow him, I think we are going to have good chemistry. I am looking forward to seeing all those guys in spring training and starting from there and make a real good team and go all the way to the World Series."
The knee-jerk reaction is that Atlanta got the better of the deal, and Prado was diplomatic.
"Justin Upton is a superstar-caliber guy, and Johnson has been in the big leagues a couple of years. Maybe in a couple of years, people will think a different way," Prado said.
Prado is expected to replace Johnson at third base in Arizona, and he said he is working there to get more comfortable this offseason. Newcomer Cody Ross will take over for Upton in right field, with rookie Adam Eaton getting the first shot in center. Prado has played 145 games at third base, 193 at second 205 in the outfield. He likely would have taken over at third for retired Chipper Jones in Atlanta this year.
Going forward, Prado could roll into second base or left field -- or stay at third -- depending on what the D-backs do with left fielder Jason Kubel and second baseman Aaron Hill after the 2013 season. Third base prospect Matt Davidson's progress also will figure into the equation.
Kubel's $7.5 million contract expires after the upcoming season, and the D-backs have a $7.5 million option with a $1 million buyout for 2014. If they do not accept the option, Prado or Gerardo Parra (who has two years of arbitration eligibility remaining) could play left field. Parra is the lone arbitration case that remains for the D-backs. He is seeking for $2.7 million, and the D-backs offered $2.1. His hearing date has not been set.
Hill, who set a career high with 76 extra-base hits last season, has one year remaining on the two-year, $11 million deal he signed last winter. The D-backs have discussed signing several players to contract extensions, and Hill and first baseman Paul Goldschmidt are believed to be among that group.