The Diamondbacks have finished 81-81 in each of the last two seasons. Part of the reason for their middling results has been their starting rotation. In 2012, they finished 12th in the NL in starter ERA. Last year, they faired slightly better -- finishing 10th -- thanks to a breakout performance by lefty Pat Corbin. Wade Miley, Brandon McCarthy, and Trevor Cahill are all likely to return to the rotation in 2014. The final opening appears to be a spot Towers intends to fill with an established front-end veteran.
Masahiro Tanaka would technically be a rookie -- if he ends up playing in the majors at all this season -- but he's thrown over 1,300 innings for the Rakuten Golden Eagles, posting a startling 2.30 ERA and a 99-35 record. Complications have been laced into the process of bringing the 25-year-old right hander to Major League Baseball from the very beginning. Now, it seems as though Rakuten is amping up their efforts to keep Tanaka in Japan this season, but nothing official has been released to date.
If Tanaka stays in Japan, the markets for Ervin Santana and Matt Garza would likely heat up.
Santana was revelatory after being traded to Kansas City last year, putting up a 3.24 ERA in 211 innings for the Royals, but he's also had a proclivity in the past for some pretty wretched misadventure. His ERA has jumped over the 5.00 mark three times since 2007.
Garza has been steadier, never straying too far from his career 3.84 ERA over a full season, but other than his excellent 2011 season with the Cubs (3.32 ERA), he has been more of a solid contributor rather than a big-ticket ace.
Towers wants pitching -- and it's out there -- but he might have to cut a pretty big check to add one of the top arms on the market. Based on the way mid-level starters -- like Scott Feldman's 3-year, $30 million deal with the Astros and Jason Vargas' four-year $32 million deal in Kansas City -- have been rewarded so far this winter, the markets for Santana and Garza are likely to get rather costly.