Kevin Towers says #dbacks hope to be in the mix for Masuhiro Tanaka. They've scouted him extensively.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) November 12, 2013
Good luck. The Yankees are widely reported to be heavily interested, and the fee for negotiating rights doesn't count against payroll for luxury tax purposes. I just can't see us outbidding the Evil Empire, not least considering how much interest there will be. Tanaka went 24-0 [that's not a misprint!] with a 1.27 ERA last year. That's a lower ERA than Yu Darvish in his final Japanese season before coming to America, and he finished second in the Cy Young voting this year. Given he cost Texas over $110 million, between the posting fee and contract, safe to say, this won't be pocket change, though due to deadlock over changes in the posting process, Tanaka may not be available.
The Stites stuff
Another name to keep an eye on for a possible bullpen spot next season is Matt Stites, whom we got from the Padres in the Kennedy trade. Said Towers, "Stites is somebody we're very, very excited about, somebody that we'll probably have in big league camp and someone we think in 2014 should be in a fixture in the back end of our bullpen." The pitcher has been working in the Arizona Fall League, having missed time due to an emergency appendectomy earlier in the year. "I thought it was just a stomachache. Then I thought it was just like a pulled muscle, because I could stretch it a little and it would get a little better."
Picking your players
There are a couple of spots on the diamond where the D-backs roster, as currently constructed, has an excess of talent, notably as shortstop and center-field. We have Chris Owings and Didi Gregorius both capable of playing at the former, while Adam Eaton and A.J. Pollock are the obvious center-fielders. It seems likely that whoever we don't want, will become trade bait as Towers seeks to strengthen the Diamondbacks' starting pitching and/or acquires a power bat. But which one should we hang on to?
Nick Piecoro polled scouts and executives to see who they prefer at each spot. The answers weren't perhaps quite as you'd expect, with Owings beating Gregorius 5-1. "Owings, they said, looks like he’ll be the more offensive-minded player and he’ll more than hold his own defensively." Eaton came out ahead of Pollock 4-1 with one tied, saying the decision depended on whether you needed a left- or right-handed batter to complete your squad. It certainly is likely that roster construction will play a significant part in the decision.
Owners approve funding for replay expansion next season. Approval of players' and umpires' union fully expected.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 14, 2013
The scheme looks to be similar to the one tested in the Arizona Fall League earlier this month, which appeared to go smoothly, and not cause any significant delay in proceedings. Over the five games, without a limit on challenges (there were seven in one game!), and also, managers likely challenging more often than they would, there were a total of 15 challenges, with three plays being reversed on review. That 20% error rate is almost exactly in line with what ESPN found in a study of umpire performance in 2010.
I'm entirely down with this. The process used in the AFL was not more disruptive than some overweight guy jogging out to second-base to yell at a stone-faced official for a couple of minutes, a process which rarely resulted in anything except mild amusement for the viewer. To me, the main improvement over the current system was that the "live" umpire crew don't need to leave the field and find a monitor to review a play, since it's being done by, effectively, a fifth umpire back at MLB HQ. Streamlines the process considerably.
Baseball: the global game
We had the Diamondbacks last week in Australia, of course, but that's just part of a many-tentacled program by MLB, to spread the gospel of baseball to a number of other places, with an initiative being announced to send players overseas as ambassadors and instructors this winter. Yan Gomez - the first Brazilian-born player to appear in MLB - is headed back to his home country, along with LaTroy Hawkins; Curtis Granderson, Chris Dickerson and Roger Bernadina are hitting Europe, and in particular the Netherlands and France; Jeremy Guthrie is doing China ; and Mark Melancon will help train South Afrtica's best.
I like to hear about this kind of thing: new fans, new players and new markets will help keep baseball fresh and interesting, though it will have to work to displace the global behemoth which is
soccer football, dammit! And meanwhile. the Paul Goldschmidt global brand continues to spread around the world...
Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) November 14, 2013