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Paul Goldschmidt played vital role in D-backs’ pursuit of Masahiro Tanaka

PHOENIX — During his 23-minute session with the media gathered at Salt River Fields on Friday, Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers took several minutes to recount the organization’s failed pursuit of New York Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka over the offseason.

The Diamondbacks, Towers said, were as competitive as they could have been financially without becoming a “lemming,” as he’d put it, in the pursuit. Ultimately, their reported six-year, $120 million offer fell far short of the Yankees’ offer, which included an additional year and another $35 million. But during their discussions with the Japanese right-hander and his agent, Casey Close, the organization felt it had a legitimate shot at winning him over, largely due to the non-financial benefits they had to offer.

And first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, Towers said, was one such non-monetary benefit.

“I think we did a very nice job as an organization presenting to them what the Diamondbacks are about,” he began.

“There was a lot of connections here,” Towers went on, mentioning the influence of team scout Rick Short, who was once a teammate of Tanaka’s in Japan, while an infielder for Nippon Professional Baseball’s Rakuten Golden Eagles.

And along with the appeal of a small market, which the Diamondbacks attempted to leverage in the discussions, Towers said the mere company of Goldschmidt was thought to be an important boon in their chances at the projected 25-year-old ace.

“We thought it was an edge,” Diamondbacks managing general partner, Ken Kendrick, disclosed during the team’s annual Fan Fest on Saturday.

Kendrick, who attended the Los Angeles-area meeting with Tanaka, Close, Towers and other team officials, believed Goldschmidt, who was also brought along on the trip, was something of a ‘secret weapon’ in the organization’s reeling efforts, pointing to the All-Star’s likability as a factor.

“It was very interesting to watch the interaction between Tanaka and Goldy, it was very clear — even though the language barrier was there — that Tanaka was impressed that he was there,” Kendrick reminisced. “And he asked him several questions through the interpreter about our club and about Arizona.”

On Friday, Towers essentially said the same.

“I think Goldy — typical Paul Goldschmidt — if I had to see there was one guy that really impacted it, at least in our meeting there, it was Goldy, just because of the type of person he was, what he said it was like to be a Diamondback,” he said.

And although the team was ultimately outbid by one of baseball’s John D. Rockefellers, they’re clearly grateful for the franchise player that they already have on the books.

“The fact that an All-Star level player would take his time to go travel and help the team recruit — I think that speaks volumes for who he is,” Kendrick crowed.

A voluntary ambassador for the team — the guy the Diamondbacks have coined “America’s First Baseman” — Goldschmidt is beloved by the front office brass for his commitment to the overall success of his employer.

“He’s always willing to do whatever for the organization, whether it’s going to Australia or flying to Los Angeles to meet with Tanaka,” Towers said.