Masahiro Tanaka is now a Yankee and not a Diamondback; this much we know. The Yankees, an omnipresent force in all major free agent dealings, and Tanaka agreed to a 7-year, $155 million contract with an opt-out clause after the fourth year. Arizona had been rumored to have submitted a contract in the neighborhood of 6 years and $120 million, on top of the $20 million posting fee, which was considered to be both a very competitive offer and an offer that was required just stay in the conversation. Then the Yankees went and did what the Yankees do: blow up the rest of the market. So what does this mean for the Diamondbacks?
First of all, it means that Arizona is back to square one with a rotation of Patrick Corbin, Trevor Cahill, Brandon McCarthy, Wade Miley and Randall Delgado. That’s not a terrible rotation by any means, but it’s rather lackluster. There’s no ‘ace’ or impact arm there, aside from a fringy one in Corbin. A true power arm is lurking in Archie Bradley, but he’s expected to spend at least the first part of the season at AAA Reno and when and where he makes his debut is something that’s firmly up in the air. The current rotation may or may not be enough to get the Diamondbacks into the playoffs, depending on health and effectiveness. If the team is trying to push into the postseason, they might like a little more insurance in the rotation.
This, of course, leads us to a familiar discussion of possible options out there for Arizona now that Mr. Tanaka is the latest Yankee overpay. We’ve hashed out the whole Jeff Samardizja thing before and we know that David Price will command a ransom that the Diamondbacks (and every other team interested in him) aren’t willing to part with. On the free agent front, Matt Garza appears the main target as he’s not connected to first round draft pick compensation. Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana are also options, although they’ll cost Arizona it’s first round draft pick in 2014. Each free agent is said to be seeking four or five years at roughly $15 million per season. There’s risk with this group of free agents, and at the end of the day, none of them are overwhelmingly good pitchers.
So the Tanaka-less Diamondbacks have two options: stand pat or (likely) overpay for a guy that isn’t much of an upgrade. Adding a guy like Garza probably means that Randall Delgado heads to the bullpen and waits until someone gets hurt before bouncing back into the rotation. Given the fragile nature of Brandon McCarthy and Garza or Jimenez, that’s not actually a bad idea. Using Delgado to fill in for injured pitchers and using him out of the bullpen the rest of time could be a great way to protect against a major drop off when injuries occur. Do 130 innings of McCarthy, 150 innings of Garza/Jimenez and 150 of Delgado put the Diamondbacks in the playoffs? I’m not sure, but Delgado is surely a better option to pick up extra innings than Zeke Spruill and Charles Brewer.
And then we read reports like this one, which indicate that the Diamondbacks may not pursue anyone at all. I’m fine with that, given the financial demands of the arms available and their general lack of being an upgrade over present talent. There’s just as good of a chance of Randall Delgado being a good pitcher than getting 200 innings out of Matt Garza or Ubaldo Jimenez pitching like an ace for a whole season. And Delgado’s already in the picture and won’t require a big commitment. Also, by avoiding a free agent deal, they can keep from clogging up the pitching situation when Bradley’s ready. The return probably doesn’t warrant the cost in regards to the free agents available.
But what if the cost for those arms decreases? What if, say Garza goes to the Angels, Ubaldo gets scooped up by someone else and Ervin Santana is blowing in the wind? What if Santana decides that he’ll take a one-year deal for $14 million and hope for a bigger payday next offseason? Does the team venture into something like that? I would argue that they should strongly consider it if the long-term risk dissipates and they can get in on a potential upgrade without having to commit to something that’s risky in the future. If Santana were to pitch well, the team could possibly make him a qualifying offer with no intent of re-signing him in hopes of acquiring an extra 2015 draft pick. While that’s not a new strategy, it could be a beneficial one. Now I sound like Ryan, though, because that was a lot of “what if’s.”
I feel like this post has kind of wandered, just like the Diamondbacks’ offseason. First it was a trade for Price or Samardzija. Those didn’t happen. Then it was a matter of which free agent Arizona might pursue and they have been linked to Matt Garza somewhat regularly. Tanaka got posted and while the situation was just resolved yesterday, it’s clear that the organization, and the fan base, have already moved on. Which leaves us where we are now, with the same faces available as before and no new information.
This market is far from finalized. Maybe a trade goes down, maybe a free agent tumbles into Arizona’s price and commitment range, maybe they do nothing at all. There’s time left during the offseason, it’s not over. What I will acknowledge that I’m pleased about is that the team seems to have a plan in terms of what it’s willing to spend and for whom they’re willing to spend it on. They aren’t going to throw their cash at a guy just because they have the cash. With that said, a deal tomorrow for a free agent starter wouldn’t shock me. This offseason has been a myriad of “will they’s” or “won’t they’s” and just when you start to think you have the Diamondbacks’ front office figured out, they usually throw you for a loop.
For now, I’ll just hope they don’t do anything desperate, even if that means doing nothing at all.
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