You're a 30-something year old free agent starting pitcher looking for a job for the 2014 season. A whirlwind of signings have already occurred, yet your name is still firmly planted on the big board of unsigned names.
Perplexed, you take a second to consider why this is happening. You seem to have an above-average track record for nearly a decade at the Major League level. Heck, you've even thrown a no-hitter and have multiple years of playoff experience under your belt.
"Why am I still unemployed?" you ask to the heavens.
And the heavens respond with two simple words: "Masahiro Tanaka."
With this in mind, you somberly hang your head. You realize now that you and your bonafide, proven MLB track record is now second in the pecking order to a pitcher who has never thrown a single pitch from a Major League mound. You angrily come to the realization that your contract will amount to whatever leftover money a desperate team may have in lieu of the mega-millions being thrown Tanaka's way, and you go back to your offseason work with a bitter taste in your mouth.
Well, Mr. 30-something, today is your lucky day. After weeks of discussion, it looks like the Nippon Professional Baseball league won't be posting Tanaka at all, even after hammering out a new agreement for a $20 million posting fee with the MLB.
ESPN's Buster Olney seems to think there's still a chance that Tanaka gets posted, tweeting:
Both Garza and Jimenez will be pitching in their age-30 seasons in 2014, while Santana clocks in at 31.
Garza was a miracle worker in his time with the Chicago Cubs last season, pitching to the tune of a 6-1 record and a 3.17 ERA before being dealt to the Texas Rangers at the trade deadline (FULL STATS). For the rebuilding Cubs, they couldn't have asked for a better performance. His success allowed the team to shed some money in a trade while returning a package of prospects highlighted by highly-touted 3rd baseman Mike Olt.
He struggled down the stretch for Texas, posting a 4-5 record with a 4.38 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP (Walks + Hits/Innings Pitched), his highest since 2007. Two things that haven't changed: his K/9 rate (which stayed at 7.9) and his wacky temper.
For Jimenez, 2013 served as a bit of a bounceback season. The former Rockies ace had been a shell of his former self since being dealt to Cleveland in 2011, and he even lead the league in losses with 17 in 2012 (I'll let the argument over importance of a W-L record for a pitcher rage another day).
His 13 wins helped propel the Indians to a Wild Card berth last season. He recorded his best ERA (3.30), WHIP (1.33) and WAR (2.7) since his 2010 season where he finished 3rd in the NL Cy Young race, and his absurd K/9 rate (9.6) was a career-best (FULL STATS).
And last but not least, we have Ervin Santana. He pitched fairly well for a Royals team that was all across the board last season, posting a career-best 3.24 ERA and notching over 200 Innings Pitched for the third time in four seasons (FULL STATS).
His K/9 rate has hovered right around 7 for his entire career, and 2013 was no exception. But 2013 also proved to be no exception to his inability to keep the ball in the ballpark. He followed up his AL-worst 39 homeruns allowed in 2012 by serving up 26 longballs in lofty Kaufman Stadium.
So here we have three power pitchers in their prime (how about that for alliteration?) who will all likely have a nice payday coming their way thanks to the NPB's reluctance to post Tanaka.
The Angels have been linked to Garza, and they still have some cap flexibility to sign him even after inking Raul Ibanez to a one-year deal.
No teams have explicitly been linked to either Jimenez or Santana, but with the New York Yankees lurking in the waters in need of starting pitching, it would be no surprise to see either name in pinstripes next season. My best guess would be the Yankees taking a stab at Jimenez over Santana: higher upside despite the occasional control problems (his BB/9 rate has never been lower than 3.5) and is slightly younger.
That leaves Santana, who will surely find a home with a contender. The Diamondbacks are in need of pitching, which could be a feasible destination.
If you were hoping I'd mention the Cubs as a likely destination for any of these names, think again. The team was only linked to Tanaka because of his young age. At 25, it's reasonable to believe the Cubs can be at the point of contention while Tanaka is still in his late 20's. But any of these other guys will be well into their 30's and on the back end of their career by the time the Cubs are ever challenging for anything.
It also wouldn't be a worthwhile deal for the Cubs to overpay for another #2 or #3 caliber starter in hopes of temporarily repairing a mediocre pitching staff (see: Edwin Jackson). For the Cubs, it was Tanaka or bust. For other contenders, it was Tanaka, and then the rest.
Today, "the rest" can celebrate their impending payday.