The Arizona Diamondbacks consider Masahiro Tanaka their "No. 1 target," and the club plans to stay involved in the bidding through the final three weeks of his negotiation period, reports Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.
Arizona has been on the prowl for a starting pitcher since they sent youngster Tyler Skaggs to the Angels in December. The team still has a lot of youth and depth in the system even with Skaggs gone -- Archie Bradley is currently the top pitching prospect in the game -- but GM Kevin Towers seems intent on adding a big-name pitcher to head the staff. The D'Backs made a run at Jeff Samardzija earlier in the winter and have also been tied David Price, but the going rate for both arms is believed to be too high for the club's liking.
While the D'Backs appear hesitant to move their prospects to get the pitching they want, Rosenthal believes they have more than enough money lying around to make a go at a free agent like Tanaka. While Towers and company never made an formal offer for Shin-Soo Choo, they were open to the idea of coming to the table at seven years and $140 million before acquiring Mark Trumbo. That kind of cash, if they're willing to spend it in this instance, should be plenty to make a solid bid for Tanaka, even accounting for his $20 million release fee.
Arizona's pre-arbitration commitments for 2014 currently sit at a fairly high $83 million, per Cot's Contracts. Signing Tanaka would not only put them over the century mark, it would also likely saddle with a franchise-record payroll figure. The club's highest-ever payroll was the $104 million they doled out in 2002, followed by last season's $90 million. Steve Gilbert of MLB.com believes that the payroll crunch will keep the D'Backs from being a finalist for Tanaka, but there's no telling what teams will do nowadays with all the extra TV money rolling in.
AZ has no plans to meet with the right-hander in Japan, per Rosenthal, but that shouldn't prevent the team from being major players for his services; Tanaka's agent, Casey Close, has discouraged interested clubs from making the trek across the Pacific. The club could also have an "in" with the right-hander, as D'Backs area scout Rick Short was a teammate of Tanaka's with Rakuten for three seasons.