PHOENIX -- The D-backs declined to offer salary arbitration to pitchers Joe Saunders and Micah Owings at Monday's 10 p.m. MT deadline, making both players free agents.
"I don't think it precludes us from bringing either player back," D-backs assistant general manager Billy Ryan said. "We communicated to them that we are still open to dialogue and encouraged them to keep the lines of communication open."
The club did offer arbitration to its other arbitration-eligible players: third baseman Ryan Roberts, catcher Miguel Montero and relievers Craig Breslow and Brad Ziegler.
While the D-backs did have interest in bringing Saunders back, they were not willing to pay him the $8.5 million to $9 million he would likely have commanded through the arbitration process. Last week, the D-backs offered him a two-year contract believed to be in the $12 million range, and Saunders made a counter offer.
D-backs GM Kevin Towers said Friday that the gap between the two offers was "significant."
The acquisition Friday of right-hander Trevor Cahill from the A's made the D-backs less inclined to spend more money than they felt Saunders was worth.
Owings returned to the organization last season when he was signed as a Minor League free agent. After being demoted toward the end of Spring Training, he was recalled early in the season and wound up going 8-0 with a 3.57 ERA in 33 games (four starts).
The D-backs had tried to reach a deal to bring Owings back prior to the arbitration deadline and could still explore signing him, although the recent acquisition of Breslow and the pending signing of Takashi Saito gives the D-backs plenty of options in the bullpen.
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @dbackswriter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.