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D-Backs took on the big boys in Tanaka competition and came up short

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PHOENIX - The Arizona Diamondbacks took on the big boys of Major League Baseball in the competition to land Japanese pitching sensation Masahiro Tanaka only to see him sign, hardly to anyone's surprise, with the New York Yankees.

Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers, speaking to a handful of reporters in a conference call on Wednesday, thanked the team's ownership for allowing him, for what he said was the first time, to "sit at the table in a high stakes poker game for one of the elite free agents."

Towers said the Diamondbacks made "a very competitive offer."

But not competitive enough. The 25-year-old right-hander's deal with the Yankees pays him $155 million over seven years, in addition to the $20 million due as a posting fee to his Japanese club.

Now Towers moves on in search, via free agency or a trade, of help for the Diamondbacks' rotation, seeking either a No. 1 starter or a strong No. 2. And, he said, those are hard to find.

The Diamondbacks contingent of managing partner Ken Kendrick, Towers, manager Kirk Gibson and star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt met with Tanaka and his entourage about three weeks ago.

"All you can do is put your best foot forward, which is what we did," Towers said.

The Diamondbacks emphasized their family atmosphere, the weather, the fact that the team trains in Arizona. Tanaka would have been the unquestioned No. 1 pitcher on the staff.

That and what undoubtedly was a substantial money offer, certainly by Diamondbacks standards, wasn't enough.

There is no large Japanese community in Phoenix. Towers said international players often are lured by the "Yankee pinstripes." He noted the Yankees have two veteran Japanese pitchers who can ease Tanaka into his new life.

The Diamondbacks will continue to see what the possibilities are for landing a pitcher.

"It doesn't stop just because we didn't get Tanaka," Towers said.

But the Diamondbacks don't want to sign any pitcher to a contract longer than three years, Tanaka being an obvious exception. Unsigned free agent starters include Ervin Santana, Matt Garza and Ubaldo Jimenez.

Towers insisted that if Arizona does not acquire another starter, he's comfortable with the returning staff, specifically mentioning the possibility of talented young flame-thrower Archie Bradley competing for a spot in the rotation this spring.

Because of their early-season trip to Australia to face the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Diamondbacks will be the first team to gather for spring training. Pitchers and catchers report Feb. 6 with the full squad due on Feb. 11.

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