D-backs lock in SS Ahmed for 4 more years

February 10th, 2020

PHOENIX -- believes the future is bright for the Arizona Diamondbacks, which is why the shortstop was willing to sign a contract extension less than a year away from becoming a free agent.

The four-year deal, which runs through 2023, calls for $32.5 million in guaranteed money with performance bonuses that could push it higher.

Ahmed will receive a $1.5 million signing bonus and a salary of $6 million in 2020, $7.5 million in ’21 and ’22 and $10 million in ’23. Ahmed was set to hit free agency following the 2020 season.

“I’m really excited,” Ahmed said. “To see what we did last year, what felt like a young team that kind of flew under the radar, see everything the front office has done this offseason to help us continue to get better was something that was really attractive to me. To be able to continue to play here and chase a championship in Arizona is going to be awesome.”

The D-backs were a surprise team in baseball last year as they won 85 games and remained in the Wild Card chase until the final week of the season.

This offseason, the D-backs added pitchers Madison Bumgarner, Hector Rondon and Junior Guerra, along with outfielders Starling Marte and Kole Calhoun.

The D-backs and Ahmed talked briefly about an extension right after the season, but talks did not begin to accelerate until last month’s deadline for the exchange of arbitration figures. The two sides were scheduled to go to a hearing Wednesday.

The moves that D-backs GM Mike Hazen made in the months between the end of the season and Monday helped Ahmed make up his mind.

“I don’t know if I would have been able to be comfortable making a decision knowing the state of the team at the beginning of the offseason,” Ahmed said. “Just seeing what Mike Hazen and company have done to help improve our roster and improve our chances, not only this year but for multiple years to come, is very attractive. It definitely helped and helped me make the decision, for sure.”

Ahmed, who turns 30 on March 15, has established himself as one of the best defensive players in the game -- and at a premium defensive position. He’s won the National League Gold Glove Award in each of the past two seasons, with a combined 39 Defensive Runs Saved. By Statcast’s Outs Above Average metric for infielders, Ahmed led the Majors with 29 OAA in 2018 and tied for third with 16 in ’19.

Ahmed has also established himself as a leader in the clubhouse.

“He’s the best defensive shortstop in baseball,” Hazen said. “We just felt like what he does for our team, having him in our clubhouse for four years, having his leadership, having him sort of anchor that infield that we can build around and position around from there, those were all important factors to us. I would say it starts with his preparation. I don’t think there’s anybody more dedicated to getting the most out of their ability than Nick is. I believe in a clubhouse environment where we’re together for six to seven straight months that that is noticed by his teammates.”

Ahmed’s bat has improved over time, though it’s still not at the level of his defense. Last year, he posted a career-high .753 OPS while slashing .254/.316/.437 with 19 homers.

“We’ve seen a steady commitment to an approach that we felt like, working with him, has really moved him forward as an offensive player,” Hazen said.