Clark gaining more suitors

Clark gaining more suitors

PHOENIX -- While the Diamondbacks still have an opportunity to sign free agent Tony Clark, the competition appears to be stiffening.

In the first 36 hours after the veteran first baseman filed for free agency, his agent John Boggs said he has been contracted by "several" teams, some of whom are interested in using his client in a role in which he would get 400-plus at-bats

While Arizona holds exclusive negotiating rights until Nov. 12, other teams are permitted to express interest and discuss what they see a player's role being. They are not allowed to discuss the financial aspect of a deal, whereas the D-backs are.

So far, the financial discussions the D-backs have had with Clark have not yielded a deal and as the clock ticks towards the time when other teams can get more specific with him, it's becoming more unlikely that Clark would sign with Arizona before at least seeing what he's worth on the open market.

"We continue to have very detailed conversations," D-backs general manager Josh Byrnes said. "Obviously, a lot of players sign at this time, even close to free agency and some don't, so we'll continue to have dialogue."

As of right now, the D-backs are not able to say exactly what Clark's role will be, which makes it difficult for the two sides to agree on suitable compensation. It's possible that Clark could wind up being the team's starting first baseman if Conor Jackson is traded or he could be a pinch-hitter, a part-time player.

One way to bridge that gap would be to include performance bonuses based on plate appearances or games played, but Arizona has a strict team policy over the past two years of not including such clauses in contracts.

Clark signed a two-year extension worth $2.068 million during the 2005 season. His performance during that extension illustrates the risk/reward in a two-year deal this time around.

In 2006, he was limited to 79 games, due to a right shoulder problem and he hit .197 with six homers and 16 RBIs, so one could argue that he was overpaid that year. Healthy in 2007, he hit .249 with 17 homers and 51 RBIs, including a monster September where he hit six homers and batted .315 as Arizona won the National League West. For that production, he might have been underpaid.

A Glendale, Ariz., resident, Clark has said that his first choice would be to remain with the D-backs, where he has become a key part of the clubhouse over his three seasons with the team.

"Listening to what other teams are interested does not preclude Tony coming back," Boggs said. "We're just going to see where this takes us. We will always keep the Diamondbacks in mind and we'll stay in close contact as the process moves along."

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.