Diamondbacks at the winter meetings: Mission (half) accomplished

David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

The winter meetings ended quietly today, the Diamondbacks and Kevin Towers coming back from Florida with one of the big things crossed off their "to do" list. Slugging outfielder? Acquired. But the question of the team's rotation remains unresolved.

The Diamondbacks came in to the winter meetings with two major goals: acquiring an outfielder with pop in his bat, and getting a starting pitcher to strengthen the rotation. Say what you like about Mark Trumbo - and it's certainly the most sharply-divisive trade by Arizona since the departure of Justin Upton - it does seem likely that, good health willing, Paul Goldschmidt will not be the only Diamondback to reach 15 home-runs in 2014, as was the case this season. Will that help improve our offense overall, protecting Goldschmidt from being pitched around? Or are we looking at a younger, somewhat fitter Jason Kubel 2.0? We'll find out in four months.

So not much point worrying now (though when has that ever stopped us?). Still, there remains significant work to be done, however. If we look at the Diamondbacks likely roster for 2014, this is what we have - I'll also tag the members with their salary, projected if necessary.

Starters

Bench

  • C. ???
  • IF. Cliff Pennington, $3.25m
  • IF. Chris Owings, $500K
  • OF. Tony Campana, $500K
  • LHIF. ???

Rotation

Bullpen

Disabled list

  • OF. Cody Ross, $9.5m
  • RP. Matt Reynolds, $550K
  • SP. Daniel Hudson, $1.1m

Some of this is somewhat uncertain. It may be Mateo at the back of the bullpen, it may be Matt Stites. Cody Ross may or may not be ready in time for Opening Day [though if not, I'm not sure who we'll use as our fourth outfielder. It could end up being Martin Prado!]. The 5th spot in the rotation, right now, would be Randall Delgado. But the pieces are more or less the same, so between the obvious holes, and what Kevin Towers has said, we have a pretty good idea of what remains to be done. We need a backup catcher, some left-handed power off the bench, and a front of the rotation starting pitcher.

The cost of the above works out at $95.25 million. I'd estimate another four million for the backup catcher and bench leftie combined, and on Tuesday, Kevin Towers said the team's payroll next season "could eclipse $112 million", which would give us $13 million or more for the starting pitcher. Previously, I would have said that should certainly be enough to make a good run at Arizona signing a top-notch free-agent. But this is now apparently a world where Ricky Nolasco, who turns 31 tomorrow and has a career ERA+ of 94, gets a four-year deal with an average annual value (AAV) of $12.25 million. That rocks the foundation upon which my very sanity is built: I don't know what to believe any more.

It may depend on how far Ken Kendrick is willing to let the payroll "eclipse" $112 million. If it's not very much, I'm unsure if we will even be able to stretch to Matt Garza, who seems to be looking for something above the $15m AAV mark - and he'll probably get it. The additional $4.2 million, which Trumbo is going to cost us over Adam Eaton next year, would indeed loom significantly, if it turns out to be the difference between the Diamondbacks getting Garza (career ERA+ of 108) and, say, settling for Ervin Santana (career ERA+ 100).

There's also the question of Towers' (perhaps understandable) reluctance to offer long-term contracts to pitchers, which will likely work against us in terms of any free-agent pitchers. If the team holds fast to its expressed reluctance to go beyond three years. it wouldn't surprise me if we came up empty on Garza, Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez, and the fall-off after that trio is kinda steep: if A.J. Burnett retires, who is there left to save us from the likes of Scott Baker and Paul Maholm? Bronson Arroyo maybe? Yeah, given headlines such as, "Acquiring an elite starting pitcher tops the Diamondbacks' offseason wish list," Arroyo would have to be classed as a disappointment.

The elephant golden eagle in the room is, of course, Masahiro Tanaka, whom everyone wants. At this point, signing Jimenez would be like going to the bar and chatting up the moderately-attractive person in the corner, while ignoring the supermodel leaning against the jukebox. Sure, you've probably got a better chance of success, and don't have to fight through the crowds to reach your target. But nothing ventured, nothing gained. Which is why it would not surprise me if the other top-line starters remain on the market until Tanaka's fate is determined, then fall like dominoes, in short order there after.

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