Ever since the Rakuten Golden Eagles posted 25-year-old starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, any other free agent activity has essentially been put on hold. As his potential suitors started to line up, it appeared that the Arizona Diamondbacks were among the most interested.
It was the Diamondbacks, after all, who made public their intentions to fly to Japan to meet with Tanaka. But that does not necessarily position them as the favorites to land him. The reason? Money, of course. Steve Gilbert of MLB.com writes about the potential challenge for Arizona:
I really would not get your hopes up about the D-backs landing Tanaka. The cost to acquire him figures to be astronomical. Forget about the $20 million posting fee, he could command upwards of $100 million to sign after that. The D-backs are not cheap — their payroll figures to be over $100 million this year — but to make that kind of commitment to a pitcher would be, I think, very tough for them to do. Look for the D-backs to make a run at him, but I would keep those expectations tempered.”
Kevin Towers and the Arizona front office have made it clear that they want to upgrade their starting rotation. With aggressive moves this off-season, they have also made it clear that they want to win right now. To add another starter to that plan, the Diamondbacks will have to overpay in one way or another.
To get Tanaka, they will have stretch their payroll. To sign guys like Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana, they will have to surrender a draft pick. To land a guy like Matt Garza, they will have to offer more years than they would want to.
Even in a crowded free agent market, that is the reality for any team who wants to add the top available pitchers.