2014 and 2015 are the main areas of concern. The team's current television deal with Fox Sports Arizona will expire after the latter season, and a new deal will likely prove significantly more lucrative, than the current one, which was worth $250 million over eight years. One estimate suggests a near doubling of that price, giving the team an injection of more than thirty million per season, which should easily be enough to cover anyone that we are likely to sign (unless we trade Bradley for Kershaw, which isn't going to happen. Though, man, that would make for a fun day on the SnakePit...). So, let's look at the team's commitments for the next two years.
|Catcher||Miguel Montero, $10.0m||Miguel Montero, $12.0m|
|First base||Paul Goldschmidt, $1.1m||Paul Goldschmidt, $3.1m|
|Second base||Aaron Hill, $11m||Aaron Hill, $12m|
|Shortstop||Didi Gregorius, $500K||Didi Gregorius, $500K|
|Third Base||Martin Prado, $11m||Martin Prado, $11m|
|Left field||Mark Trumbo, $4.7m||Mark Trumbo, $7m|
|Center field||Gerardo Parra, $4.2m||Gerardo Parra, $6m|
|Right field||Cody Ross, $9.5m||Cody Ross, $9.5m|
|Eric Chavez, $4.5m|
|Cliff Pennington. $3.25m||Cliff Pennington. $5m|
|Henry Blanco, $700K|
|Chris Owings, $500K||Chris Owings, $500K|
|A.J. Pollock, $500K||A.J. Pollock, $500K|
|Starter 1||Brandon McCarthy, $10.25m||Archie Bradley, $500K|
|Starter 2||Trevor Cahill, $7.7m||Trevor Cahill, $12m|
|Starter 3||Wade Miley, $500K||Wade Miley, $1.5m|
|Starter 4||Patrick Corbin, $500K||Patrick Corbin, $500K|
|Starter 5||TO BE ANNOUNCED||TO BE ANNOUNCED|
|J.J. Putz, $7m||Daniel Hudson, $1m|
|Brad Ziegler, $4.5m||Brad Ziegler, $5m|
|David Hernandez, $2m||David Hernandez, $3.5m|
|Joe Thatcher, $2m||Matt Reynolds, $750K|
|Josh Collmenter, $900K||Josh Collmenter, $2m|
|Will Harris, $500K||Matt Stites, $500K|
|Addison Reed, $500K||Addison Reed, $4m|
|Daniel Hudson, $800K|
|Matt Reynolds, $550K|
Before we get to the tallies, some comments. Positions are largely based on salary, filling the slots with the most expensive roster players. Hence, Cody Ross is in right-field and Gerardo Parra in center, with A.J. Pollock on the bench. I'm prepared to offer quite long odds against that being the case, at least on Opening Day 2014. Some of the numbers are, frankly, guesses, e.g. arbitration estimates for 2015 will depend on both performance and role. For instance, Reed's payout will depend on whether or not he's our closer: if he is, and performs well, we could be looking at something nearer a Kimbrel-esque $7 million in arb, so it may make fiscal sense to use Putz.
Adding up the two columns, we have a current committed payroll of $99.15 million for 2014 and slightly less for 2015, at $98.35 million. The latter figure is fractionally lower, mostly because, while there are significant increases for a number of players, we also get out from under the high-priced contracts of J.J. Putz and Brandon McCarthy. With cheaper alternates probably able to replace them, in the shapes of Reed and Bradley respectively, the money saved will likely cover most of the pay rises. However, the 2015 figure does not include replacing Chavez and whoever is our backup catcher, so the final total will likely be a couple of million higher.
So, where does this leave the Diamondbacks, in terms of what they can commit to a free-agent pitcher? The team's precise ceiling remains uncertain, with the closest we've got to an actual figure being in this quote from Kevin Towers:
#Dbacks GM Kevin Towers said the team's payroll could eclipse $112 million in 2014 depending on how they fill need for starting pitcher.— Steve Gilbert (@SteveGilbertMLB) December 11, 2013
That remains somewhat vague, depending on what precisely is meant by "eclipse." In astronomical terms, are we talking partial, annular or total eclipse? But it seems the team has at least $13 million or so available for a pitcher this winter, and probably about the same for next season. 2016 would then see the purse-strings loosened further, so if they wanted to back-load a contract, they should be able to do so. Given Towers' expressed aversion to signing pitchers to long-term deals, perhaps we'd be looking at something along the lines of a three-year, $45 million contract, split up as $13m, $13m and $19m. Would that get us any of the targets previously discussed?
The exception to the three-year rule would be Tanaka, whose status remains unclear (and who largely continues to be the reason why the top five remaining free agents on the market are starting pitchers!). There's suggestions that the announcement could come tomorrow or Wednesday - yep, Christmas Day, so we'll be on standby for that. I have absolutely no idea as to what kind of contract Tanaka might command, but we should probably save a more detailed discussion on that for if/when the player hits the open market.