2:13pm: The Dodgers are interested in Maeda and are maintaining contact with his representatives in advance of the January 8th deadline, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports tweets.
12:35pm: The deadline for an MLB team to sign Kenta Maeda is January 8th at 5pm ET/4pm CT, according to Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (on Twitter). Meanwhile, MLBTR has learned that the Hiroshima Toyo Carp have set the release fee at $20MM, the maximum allowed by the agreement between MLB and NPB. Any team willing to meet that $20MM asking price will have the right to negotiate with Maeda over the next couple of weeks.
The question now is, which teams will be making a serious run at Maeda? We learned recently that the Red Sox will not submit a bid to negotiate with Maeda thanks to the mammoth deal given to David Price. At the Winter Meetings, Giants GM Bobby Evans told MLBTR that his club had internal conversations about Maeda, but they’re almost certainly out on him after adding Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto. The Padres will not be in the mix, despite sending a number of club officials to Japan in November. The Cardinals looked to be one possibility, but they’re probably not considering the Japanese star after inking Mike Leake to a five-year, $80MM deal.
The Dodgers would appear to be a solid fit for Maeda after losing Zack Greinke to free agency and tearing up their agreement with Hisashi Iwaukma. They have been expected to be among the teams in the hunt for the right-hander, but there hasn’t been any definitive word on that as of late.
Maeda, 28 in April, is widely considered to be one of the best pitchers in Japan. He just wrapped up a season in which he pitched to a 2.09 ERA with 7.6 K/9 against 1.8 BB/9 across 206 1/3 innings, marking his sixth consecutive season with an earned run average of 2.60 or better. His excellent 2015 season netted Maeda his second Sawamura Award — Japan’s equivalent to the Cy Young Award. With his relative youth, dominant track record and, of course, lack of draft pick compensation, Maeda immediately becomes one of the more intriguing arms on the free-agent market. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes forecasted a five-year, $60MM deal for Maeda this winter. When factoring in a release fee of $20MM, that amounts to an $80MM commitment overall.