The Arizona Diamondbacks made it very clear from the beginning in this article from Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal that they planned on being in the hunt for Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka. But the news came down Wednesday from Rosenthal that Tanaka was headed to the New York Yankees.
The D'Backs should have immediately turned their attention to Matt Garza, but it looks like it's too late for that, as well. Garza is likely headed to the Milwaukee Brewers in a potential deal that was also reported by Fox Sports' Rosenthal.
This tweet from David Waldstein of the New York Times indicated that Tanaka might have cut the field earlier in the posting process to focus on the Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Japan's Sports Hochi had a similar report (Japanese version) that the player has cut the field to include the Yankees, Dodgers and the Los Angeles Angeles. There had been no official word on this from Tanaka's agent Casey Close, but the D'Backs should have been ready to move on to the next option.
The D'Backs had to see the writing on the wall here and not be stubborn. While the rest of baseball deals with the fallout of Tanaka's seven-year deal for $155 million, Arizona should have been trying to get a deal done with Garza. The last thing that the D'Backs can afford to have happen here is to get left out of the free-agent starting pitcher market completely.
The D'Backs simply cannot go into next season without another established starter besides Patrick Corbin. Arizona needed to come away with either Tanaka or Garza this offseason in order to compete for a playoff spot.
Signing Tanaka or Garza would not have required the D'Backs to sacrifice a draft pick, something that will continue to be key in the long run for the D'Backs. Arizona is going to need every single pick it has in order to continue to bring talented young players into the organization. Signing either pitcher would have helped the franchise in the short-term with manageable risk in the long-term.
Garza might have been the better fit for the D'Backs. He would have come much cheaper and is a very good pitcher when healthy, someone who pitches with an edge and displays a bulldog mentality on the mound. D'Backs general manager Kevin Towers mentions in this ESPN article that he wants his pitchers to be tougher. For a team that looks to be building around young pitching, you don't want them to be timid when they come to the major league level. Garza is anything but timid.
Garza gained experience with this while playing for the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East. The Rays were always at a financial disadvantage. Players don't care about payroll figures once the games have started. Teams might feel that their is a distinct disadvantage here, but spending money doesn't mean that they have spent it wisely. A couple of injuries can drastically change any team's outlook.
The D'Backs face going into the NL West this season labeled as an underdog—something the rest of the division will deal with as well as they come to terms with the Dodgers and their ability to spend far above the other teams in the league. Dodgers ended the 2013 season with a payroll of almost $217 million.
Right now, the D'Backs need to look at the landscape and realize that coming away from this winter without adding a good starting pitcher is a recipe for disaster. Losing out on Tanaka and Garza could make this a long season for the D'Backs before it has even started.
Information used from Ken Rosenthal/Fox Sports, Ken Rosenthal/Fox Sports, Baseball Reference, Ken Rosenthal/Fox Sports, David Waldstein/New York Times, Sports Hochi, ESPN, Cot's Baseball Contracts/Baseball Prospectus