They can’t buy it, so the Arizona Diamondbacks must develop talent

Jan 22, 2014, 9:28 PM | Updated: 9:40 pm

A free agent chose the team that offered the most years and most money.

Has anyone else’s world been turned upside-down?

When you think about it, the news that Masahiro Tanaka chose the New York Yankees is as surprising as Adam Sandler and David Spade combining to make a terrible movie. The odds were in favor of it happening.

The Yankees offered the Japanese star seven years and $155 million, which he chose over offers from the likes of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks.

The D-backs, it was reported, offered six years and $120 million for a player who went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA for his Japanese League team last season.

Add in the other $20 million the D-backs would have had to pay Tanaka’s former team, and they were prepared to spend considerably more money on Tanaka than they ever have on any player.

That means something, especially when you consider that Tanaka has never pitched in a major league game.

For those out there who think the D-backs knew they never had a chance to land Tanaka and did this just to try and save face, the time and resources spent in scouting and pursuing the right-hander would beg to differ. Though they did not have the finances to compete with some of the other finalists, the Diamondbacks very much believed they had a shot to land the coveted pitcher.

Whether they actually did is anyone’s guess, but you have to at least commend the team for trying.

“In a way, very proud of the organization and ownership allowing myself and our baseball operations department to really play in, probably the first time in my career as an executive or general manager, play in or at least sit down at a table in a high-stakes poker game for one of the elite free agents,” D-backs GM Kevin Towers said. “I think we did everything that we could in presenting ourselves and who we are as the Diamondbacks, selling our organization and our city and the state of Arizona.

“I think when it was all said and done…we presented ourselves a very competitive offer and probably made it very difficult for Tanaka and his advisors in making the decision to go to the Yankees.”

According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, one of their selling points (besides a substantial amount of money, of course) was that their organization was “a family in which Tanaka would feel comfortable.”

That may be, but cash has a strange way of adding to one’s comfort level.

Sadly, the truth is the D-backs will never be able to compete with the likes of the Yankees and Dodgers when it comes to money. Financially, their best was not good enough, and it will never be good enough.

Towers acknowledged the challenge that poses, calling that “life in baseball” and saying the D-backs have to point to other perceived advantages, such as the environment, smaller media market and close proximity to training facilities as reasons to sign on the dotted line.

“We’re never going to be the Yankees, we’re never going to be the Dodgers in the way of market size,” he said. “We just have to be creative. We need to draft well, we need to develop well, and make good decisions.”

Ding, ding and ding.

Somewhere along the line, it appears the drafting and developing of talent has gone a bit awry. The last couple of years have seen the D-backs part with elite prospect after elite prospect in deals, as they’ve been quick to sour on players who were once thought to be part of the franchise’s bright future. Time will tell if the team was right to give up on them, but an organization cannot repeatedly pawn off high-end talent and hope to build a winning club. Though the deals may not have and may never backfire, every top prospect the team spent time developing only to trade away is a net loss for the team, especially when the return appears to consistently be for pennies on the dollar.

That is not what the D-backs should be doing, and it will not help them compete with the more free-spending teams when it comes to free agency.

The Diamondbacks do have plenty to offer, but the problem is most big-time free agents will not really be able to comprehend the benefits.

Are the Diamondbacks a good organization to be a part of? Sure, but until you have been, how would you really know?

Is Arizona a nice place to live? For most of the year yeah, but until you’ve lived here, how would you really know?

What Towers hit on, and is the most important thing for a club like the Diamondbacks, is the need to draft well and develop talent. The players who have been with the organization for years will understand the benefits of being here, and are thus more likely to want to stay.

Just think, who was the last important D-backs to leave via free agency? Paul Goldschmidt and Miguel Montero likely could have received more money as free agents but chose to sign a bit early and stick around. Aaron Hill was around for just a couple of months after first being acquired, but had little interest in playing anywhere else.

They’re obviously doing something right once the players are in Arizona, but the trick is developing enough who are worth keeping around.


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