D-backs prepare for serious run at Tanaka

Team has made coveted Japanese right-hander its top Hot Stove priority

D-backs prepare for serious run at Tanaka

PHOENIX -- The first few weeks of the New Year for the D-backs figure to involve a lot of Masahiro Tanaka.

By now everyone is familiar with Tanaka. The 25-year-old right-hander went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles last year. He was recently posted by the Eagles after months of speculation.

The D-backs covet Tanaka, like most of baseball.

While Arizona has been able to find the power hitter and back-end bullpen arm it desired heading into the winter, the one thing still left on general manager Kevin Towers' to-do list is to land a frontline starting pitcher.

The D-backs have interest in free-agent right-hander Matt Garza, but Towers is on record saying he is unlikely to go longer than three years on a contract for any pitcher on the market not named Tanaka. Given that Garza does not have Draft compensation tied to his signing, he figures to command multiple offers of more than three years.

Other top pitchers on the market -- Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez -- do not seem to tempt the D-backs as much. Should the D-backs sign one of those players, they would relinquish their first-round pick in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft.

Unless a trade emerges between now and the start of Spring Training, that leaves Tanaka as the lone path to a frontline starter.

The D-backs have made it clear to Tanaka's agent, Casey Close, that they are willing to post the $20 million posting fee required to place a bid for Tanaka, and that they should be considered serious players for him.

There's no telling what kind of contract it will take to sign Tanaka, but it figures to be massive. In addition to the posting fee, the speculation is that a team will need to offer a contract of at least $100 million to land the pitcher.

Are the D-backs willing to spend upwards of $120 million?

The answer is that they might be, but it would be a financial stretch for the organization and might require them to trim some salary to make it work.

The D-backs seem to realize that their chances of bidding more money than any of the financial heavyweights in the game are not good. Their hope, though, is that their offer will be competitive financially, allowing them to sit down with Tanaka and make their case for why he might prefer pitching in Arizona.

If the D-backs are not able to sign Tanaka or make a deal for a starter, they will enter the spring with a rotation of Patrick Corbin, Wade Miley, Trevor Cahill and Brandon McCarthy.

Randall Delgado would be the leader for the No. 5 spot, with 2011 first-round Draft pick Archie Bradley expected to make a push. Bradley is ranked as the second-best pitching prospect by MLB.com.

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.