Reports have indicated the Hiroshima Carp could post RHP Kenta Maeda before the end of the month. Once he’s posted, Maeda will garner a lot of attention as teams across the league lineup to commit the $20 million fee for the right to negotiate a deal with him.
Last year it was believed the clubs that lost out on Masahiro Tanaka would be in the mix for Maeda this winter. And the Cubs were among those that tried to convince Tanaka to forgo pitching in the Bronx.
Jim Duquette listed the Cubs, along with the Astros and Blue Jays, as a possible destination and lead suitors for Kenta Maeda if he is posted this winter.
The Diamondbacks are interested in Kenta Maeda. Dave Stewart, the D-Backs’ GM, said so publicly. The Red Sox have heavily scouted him and several reports have indicated he would like to pitch in Boston. All four of the other teams with reported interest in Maeda were believed to be “all in” on Tanaka last year. And even with Tanaka in the rotation, the Yankees are also believed to be interested in Maeda.
With the changes made in the posting system last year, it would make sense to commit the $20 million fee in order to officially talk to and negotiate a contract with him. The release fee is not paid unless the player signs with the team.
Kenta Maeda is not seen as being on the same level as Yu Darvish or Masahiro Tanaka, but he has been rather effective in Japan. The 26-year old (April 11) Maeda was 11-9 in 28 starts last season with a 2.60 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP. Maeda and his team view last year as a bad season for the right hander. In 187 innings, he allowed 61 runs, 54 earned, on 164 hits with 41 walks and 161 strikeouts.
Maeda was 82-59 in 190 games, 189 starts, during his seven-year career in the Japan Central League. Maeda posted a 2.44 ERA and 1.05 WHIP (1095 hits, 1058 strikeouts, 278 walks) in 1303 1/3 innings. Similar career numbers to the ones Tanaka put up in his seven years in the Japan Pacific League.
According to a report from Baseball America, Maeda was sharp in his last start of the season. Maeda threw his fastball with “impressive velocity” in the 90-94 mph range. Baseball America reported he hit 94 mph on the gun four times. In previous outings, Maeda’s fastball ranged from 87-94 mph. Maeda has good command and spotted his fastball (both four-seam and two-seam) well in his last outing.
Ben Badler provided excellent detail and reported Maeda’s “go-to secondary weapon in his 80-84 mph slider,” which is considered a “slightly-above average offering with tight spin and quick, late break.” Maeda is known to hang it from time to time. Maeda’s change-up (85-86 mph) “flashed average with good tailing action that he used mostly against left handers.” Maeda also throws a cutter (86-88 mph) and a curveball (72-75 mph).
Questions exist of where Maeda would slot into a big league rotation. He’s not seen as a No. 1, but Brian Cashman did not view Tanaka as a No. 1 when the Yankees signed him last year.
The Carp have not decided to make him available this off-season and have until Feb. 1 to do so. If he is posted, Jim Duquette thinks he will sign a five-year contract in the $100 million range, plus the posting fee, and other estimates have suggested a six-year deal for $120-130 million.
The other free agent pitchers the Cubs have been connected to in Jim Duquette’s report include Jon Lester, James Shields, David Robertson, Andrew Miller, Jason Hammel and Jake Peavy. As for possible suitors for those five pitchers, Duquette has the Cubs, Yankees and Dodgers as landing spots for Lester. The Red Sox, Yankees, Cubs, Rangers and Angels as possibilities for Shields. The Nationals, Tigers, Yankees and White Sox as suitors for Robertson and the Dodgers, Tigers, Yankees and Orioles for Miller. Duquette sees the Twins, Astros and Braves as the leading options for Hammel and Peavy’s most likely landing spots as being the Giants, Braves, Brewers and Astros.
As has been the case this off-season, the Cubs will continue to be linked to every available player until a signing, or two, is made and some of the resources available to Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are allocated.