Japanese hurler Kenta Maeda has requested that his Japanese club, the Hiroshima Carp, make him available to major league organizations through the posting process, as Yasuko Yanagita of Hochi Shimbun first reported on Twitter.
Maeda spun 206 1/3 innings of 2.09 ERA pitching last year. While he’s not a huge strikeout pitcher — he’s never topped 8.1 K/9 over a single season — Maeda is no slouch in that department. And he features impeccable control, with an excellent 1.9 BB/9 walk rate for his career.
It remains to be seen whether the NPB organization will make the highly-regarded right-hander available, as Kyodo News reports (paywall link, h/t to MLB.com’s Joey Nowak). Hiroshima’s general manager Kiyoaki Suzuki said that Maeda’s “request might be granted,” indicating that he’d likely “decide on a course of action around the end of next week.”
If the Carp follow the wishes of their staff ace, the rules provide that the posting team must set a release fee of no more than $20MM. Any team willing to meet that price is permitted to negotiate with the player in an attempt to work out a contract within a thirty day window from the date of posting. The release fee is only due if a deal is struck.
The 27-year-old Maeda figures to take up a prominent place in the winter’s starting pitching market if he is made available. With Yu Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka serving as recent examples of the ability of top Japanese starters to transition to the big leagues, there should be no shortage of interest.
It would be surprising if Hiroshima sets the release fee at anything short of the $20MM maximum. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes ranked Maeda 14th on his list of the top fifty free agents, predicting that the Japanese star would command a total commitment (including the fee) of five years and $80MM — putting him right alongside quality MLB starters such as Jeff Samardzija, Mike Leake, and Wei-Yin Chen in expected earning power.