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Kenta Maeda Rumors
One of the top pitching talents thought to be available this offseason will instead remain in Japan, as the Hiroshima Carp have signed right-hander Kenta Maeda to a new contract, The Japan Times reports. The re-signing comes on the heels of last week’s news that the Carp told Maeda he wasn’t going to be posted this winter, as per Jim Allen of the Kyodo News (Twitter link).
The 26-year-old Maeda is coming off his fifth consecutive season with a sub-3.00 ERA, having posted a 2.60 mark with 7.7 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 in 187 innings for the Carp. While he’s not thought to have the same ceiling as countrymen Yu Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka, most feel that Maeda can, at the very least, be a competent mid-rotation starter in Major League Baseball. He’s totaled 1303 1/3 innings in a seven-season career with the Carp, working to a 2.44 ERA with 7.3 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9.
“I am thinking this [going to the majors] is close to becoming a reality. Hopefully I can go in the offseason next year,” Maeda said.
As Ben Badler of Baseball America wrote in a scouting report following Maeda’s last game of the season, the right-hander offers three average-or-better pitches — a 90-94 mph fastball, an 80-84 mph slider and an 85-86 mph changeup — and occasionally works in a cutter and curveball. Maeda won’t turn 27 until next April, so his age alone could’ve resulted in a significant asking price. Under the new rules agreed to with Nippon Professional Baseball last winter, however, the Carp would only have been entitled to a maximum $20MM posting fee — a far cry from the posting fees of Darvish and Daisuke Matsuzaka, both of which were in excess of $50MM.
Maeda could still be posted next offseason and would be an unrestricted free agent following the 2017 season. While the entire list of clubs with interest in him is unknown, the Red Sox and Phillies have both scouted Maeda, with Philadelphia GM Ruben Amaro personally making a visit to Japan to watch the right-hander. Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart candidly admitted that he “loves” Maeda and would be a player if the right-hander were posted. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes ranked Maeda twelfth on his list of this offseason’s top 50 free agents.
The Diamondbacks will be in the hunt for Kenta Maeda if the Japanese righty is made available this winter, GM Dave Stewart told reporters (including MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert). “I love Maeda,” Stewart said. “I love him. We have a lot of video and film and we have people who have seen him. We think that he’s got a chance to be very successful in Major League Baseball. We’re going to try to be in on the market when he does post, if he does post.” Here’s some more notes from Stewart and other Snakes-related items…
- Stewart confirmed the team’s interest in Chad Billingsley, saying the right-hander is “definitely a possibility for us.” Billingsley has been sidelined for almost two full seasons due to Tommy John surgery and a torn flexor tendon. Stewart represented Billingsley back when the GM was a player agent.
- “I don’t know how big we’re going to play” for Yasmany Tomas, Stewart said, given the Cuban outfielder’s escalating price tag. The D’Backs do like Tomas’ potential and they “definitely have to consider being a part of that.”
- The Diamondbacks want to acquire a starting pitcher, though Stewart won’t pay too much of a prospect cost to do so. “I’m not trying to put us in a backward position, especially in our Minor League system,” the GM said.
- Stewart again stressed that he hasn’t “shopped any of our players,” including catcher Miguel Montero, though “all of our players have been asked about. That’s the best way I can put it.” Montero has been rumored to be available as Arizona looks to free up some payroll space. Stewart said he hasn’t spoken to Montero about the trade rumors since “I don’t see any point in raising concerns when there are none.”
- Montero’s market is examined by Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic, who feels that while Montero could be draw attention from teams who fail to sign Russell Martin, the Arizona catcher’s recent poor hitting and hefty contract could be deterrents. “If [the D’Backs] won’t chew down any dollars, I’d say the return won’t be as good as most think. It also depends on how motivated the acquiring club is,” a rival executive told Piecoro.
- Stewart is keeping an open mind about whether to use Daniel Hudson as a starter or a reliever as the right-hander continues his recovery from his second Tommy John surgery, Piecoro reports. “We had a discussion about that, and we’re not really sure. We’d like to best utilize him in a way that we can get the most out of him,” Stewart said. “We’re going to have to have more discussions with our training staff, and I’d like to ask some people externally about what they think of his condition and how we can best utilize him without hurting him.”
Here’s the latest on a pair of highly-touted players who would be notable additions to the free agent market — if they become available:
- After playing in his team’s game on Friday, Cuban second baseman Jose Fernandez and his cousin, catcher Lazaro Herrera, were absent for unknown reasons, manager Victor Mesa told Cuban media outlet Giron (Spanish link). Baseball America’s Ben Badler hasn’t been able to confirm whether or not Fernandez and Herrera have defected, but he writes that were Fernandez to defect and be granted free agency, he’d immediately become one of the most sought after free agents on the market. Badler ranked Fernandez as the No. 3 player in Cuba back in late August. He praises Fernandez’s excellent bat control and plate discipline, noting that he also has occasional pop. Fernandez hit .326/.482/.456 in Serie Nacional’s 2013-14 season and was off to a .315/.415/.426 start in 65 PA this season.
- It is still an open question whether Japanese starter Kenta Maeda will be posted this year. Noting that posturing is an element in public discussions of whether Maeda will be made available, Ben Badler of Baseball America breaks down Maeda’s last start of the year. Per Badler, the righty — who relies on location given his good-but-not-great pure stuff — was crisp until his pitch count crept up. Clubs will get an interesting chance to see Maeda face big leaguers later this winter, as he is slated to throw for the Japanese club that will face a barnstorming roster put together by MLB.
Hiroshima Carp owner Hajime Matsuda said today that his club is not yet sure whether it will make top pitcher Kenta Maeda available through the posting system, as the Japan Times reports. “We have the right,” said Matsuda. “We would like to let him go, but based on his production this year it will be difficult.”
For his part, Maeda said that he has not decided his own preference at this point. He is reported to have informed the Carp last year of his desire to be posted, however.
Maeda did put up a rather pedestrian 11-8 record. But by most measures valued in today’s MLB, he was far from unproductive: the 26-year-old worked to a 2.56 ERA with 7.7 K/9 against 2.0 BB/9, stats that are largely in line with his career figures. To be sure, he did not return to the stellar 1.53 earned run mark he put up in 2012, but a brief glance at his stat line shows that Maeda allowed half the number of home runs that year that he did this year and last, which alone probably accounts for much of the discrepancy.
Ben Badler of Baseball America recently published a scouting report suggesting that Maeda’s stuff remains as intriguing as ever. Though he is not viewed as a top-of-the-rotation starter, Maeda is seen as a good bet to be a valuable rotation piece at the MLB level. His solid repertoire is matched, it should be noted, by a track record of durability (at least 175 innings a year since 2009).
Remember that Maeda will be posted, if at all, under new rules agreed to in the midst of last year’s Masahiro Tanaka drama. Among other things, the release fee can be set no higher than $20MM, and any major league team willing to pay the established release fee is permitted to negotiate with the posted player.
In large part, those rule changes tend to discredit the notion that Maeda will not be posted because the Carp could always make him available for the maximum fee and then pull him back if no deal is struck. Though the above-cited story suggests a posting is “unlikely,” the only quote from Matsuda hardly implies that the club has made any decision against posting.
26-year-old Kenta Maeda of Japan’s Hiroshima Carp is expected to become available through the posting system, making him an intriguing potential addition to the upcoming free agent market. Ben Badler of Baseball America has a report on Maeda’s last outing in the Nippon League, writing that he “flash[ed] three average or better pitches with good fastball command.” Though slight in build, Maeda steadily worked in the 90-94 mph range. Ultimately, Badler indicates that, while the righty is not viewed as a top-of-the-rotation arm at the MLB level, he should draw plenty of interest if he is made available.
Here are a few more stray notes from around the game:
- The Yankees may be interested in re-signing mid-season acquisition Chase Headley, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. A move to bring back the third baseman would appear to be a strong indication that Alex Rodriguez is not expected to be an option there, Heyman explains.
- The Tigers thought they were going to acquire then-Red Sox lefty Andrew Miller at the trade deadline after meeting Boston’s asking price, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post. But the Sox gave the Orioles one last chance, resulting in Eduardo Rodriguez heading north to a division rival. As Sherman notes, the eleven outs that Miller recorded in the ALDS for the O’s, rather than the Tigers, had an undeniable impact on Baltimore’s three-game sweep.
- Looking ahead to Miller’s free agency, one executive tells Sherman that three years and $21MM is probably just the starting point for the southpaw’s market. The ability to deploy Miller in the way that the Yankees used Dellin Betances in his breakout year — often throwing multiple innings in winnable games — greatly increases his value, says Sherman.
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. says “there’s nothing that’s really off the table” for the team as it enters the offseason, as MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki reports. Though he said he does not believe “this organization needs a philosophical overhaul as far as how we evaluate players,” Amaro said the team needs to get younger and more athletic while “looking for more long-term solutions” in the player market. Ultimately, the organization could put added emphasis on “speed and contact” given the lack of power bats available.
We recently covered the many changes in minor league affiliates. One of those — the Brewers parting ways with former Triple-A affiliate Nashville — appeared to feature considerable consternation on the MLB team’s part. As Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, Nashville’s owner has now acknowledged that he wanted a new parent club because the Brewers had not done enough to put a winning ballclub on the field at the Triple-A level. Nashville’s new MLB club, the Athletics, has enjoyed a strong recent run of success at the top minor league level.
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. has logged significant air miles in recent days, as Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. In addition to taking a personal look at Yasmany Tomas, Amaro flew to Japan to put eyes on starter Kenta Maeda, as MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes reports on Twitter. Both international targets offer relative youth, a rare commodity on the free agent market, though that obviously increases their appeal to other clubs as well.
- Dodgers reliever Chris Perez has already earned $1.5MM in incentives this year on top of his $2.3MM base salary, reports Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times. He picked up $500K each for his 35th, 40th, and 45th appearances, and will trigger another half-million payday with his next call from the pen. The 29-year-old has struggled to a 4.27 ERA over 46 1/3 frames, and his peripherals (7.6 K/9, 4.9 BB/9, 37.7% groundball rate, 5.07 FIP) do not paint a more favorable picture.
- Giants center fielder Angel Pagan will undergo season-ending back surgery, Alex Pavlovic of the Mercury News tweets. The 33-year-old has performed well when healthy, but has made just 718 plate appearances since signing a four-year, $40MM contract before the 2013 season.
The Orioles announced today that they have selected the contract of first base prospect Christian Walker for the final few games of the season. Walker, 23, was Baltimore’s fourth-round pick in 2013 and batted a combined .288/.357/.489 between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk this season. As Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com explains, Baltimore will take a look at Walker while resting Steve Pearce over the remainder of the regular season. The team was hesitant to add Walker to the 40-man roster, as he did not need to be protected from the Rule 5 Draft this winter, but they decided to give him a mini-audition of sorts (Twitter links). No moves were needed to clear a spot in light of the suspension of Chris Davis, tweets Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com.
Here’s more from the American League East…
- The Red Sox have interest in Japanese hurler Kenta Maeda, tweets Rob Bradford of WEEI.com, but that interest is similar to their interest in many free agent starters, including Francisco Liriano. That is to say, according to Bradford, that Boston considers him a middle-of-the-rotation arm rather than an ace to slot atop the team’s starting five.
- The struggles of Koji Uehara have not changed the interest of the Red Sox in bringing him back, GM Ben Cherington tells Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe (via Twitter). After showing excellent form for much of the season, Uehara’s age-39 campaign took a quick downturn from mid-August onward. He remains a tantalizing free agent, however, given his recent track record of dominance.
- For the time being, of course, all eyes will be on Rusney Castillo tonight as he makes his debut for the Red Sox. But with so little time left in the season, his real work will come over the winter, as Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports. Castillo is expected to play in both the Arizona Fall League and the Puerto Rican Winter League as he looks to dial in his play in anticipation of competing for a starting job next spring.
- Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos expects Melky Cabrera to test the free agent market rather than sign an extension, writes Shi Davidi of Sportsnet. While reports have indicated that Cabrera will receive a qualifying offer and Toronto hopes to retain him on a new multi-year deal, Anthopoulos said that it just makes sense for most players who get to this point to see what’s out there. Anthopoulos added that he’s open to bringing back any of the team’s pending free agents if it makes financial sense.
- The Rays‘ immediate future is not promising, in the opinion of Gary Shelton of the Tampa Bay Times. With the team expected to oversee a drop in payroll, it will take bounce-backs from several key players (such as Wil Myers and Evan Longoria) to improve the team moving forward. For his part, skipper Joe Maddon says that he foresees a return to form for Tampa, especially given the team’s talented pitching staff. “I just want to believe it’ll be more offensive,” Maddon said of next year’s club. “Whether it’s with the guys who are here or potential acquisitions.”
For those who missed it over the weekend, reports from MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez pegged this coming Sunday (Sept. 21) as the date for Cuban slugger Yasmani Tomas‘ showcase, which will be held at the Giants’ complex in the Dominican Republic. Here are a few notes on the international prospect front…
- Tomas’ agent, Jay Alou, told Jorge Ebro of El Nuevo Herald in Miami last week (Spanish link) that he expects to set a record this offseason when negotiating Tomas’ contract. Rusney Castillo‘s seven-year, $72.5MM contract currently stands as the most lucrative contract ever for a Cuban player, but Tomas’ combination of age and power will certainly give him a chance to top that figure. It would also seem possible that Tomas tops Jose Abreu‘s $11.33MM average annual salary as well.
- The Red Sox have scouted Japanese right-hander Kenta Maeda extensively, reports Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. Cafardo says it would be a surprise if Boston didn’t make a bid for the 26-year-old, assuming he is posted this offseason (Cafardo makes the assumption that he will be). Maeda has posted a 2.71 ERA with 7.5 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 in 156 innings for the Hiroshima Carp this season — his sixth straight season with an ERA south of 3.00. Set to turn 27 next April, Maeda has a career 2.45 ERA over seven seasons in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball. Of course, Maeda is a rather high-profile arm, so it’s likely that a large amount of other clubs have been scouting him as well.
- Sanchez traveled to the Dominican Republic this weekend for a week-long Dominican Prospect League showcase — an event at which roughly 200 teenagers will be seen by scouts. According to Sanchez (Twitter links), 29 of baseball’s 30 clubs will be in attendance. The Indians, he says, are the lone club that is not expected to attend. Sanchez’s timeline currently has plenty of Vine clips of prospects performing drills for those who are interested in the event.
Here’s the latest out of the National League:
- The agent for Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval says that the free agent-to-be is still open to discussing a new deal, though no talks have occurred “in months,” according to a tweet from Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com. Sandoval, who will hit the market before his age-28 season, has put up a solid walk year. In addition to a .283/.330/.438 line and 14 home runs through 463 plate appearances, Sandoval has impressed defensive metrics and scouts alike with his glovework on the hot corner. Even better, his primary competitor on the third base market, Chase Headley, has not impressed. Of course, many clubs will probably view Hanley Ramirez as a third base option at this point as well.
- Cubs starter Jake Arrieta says he is open to an extension with the club, as Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Though his agent, Scott Boras, typically advises his clients to go year-to-year until reaching free agency, Arrieta says he loves playing in Chicago and would be interested in a reasonable new contract. “I don’t think I’m a guy that’s going to ask for an astronomical amount of money,” he said. “But I think if there’s a fair deal to be reached, I’m in 100 percent.” Arrieta added that he felt Boras would not be any hindrance to a deal, but would instead arm him with the necessary advice and information to enable him to reach a decision. He did note that no talks had occurred to date: “I don’t think it’s out of the question. I don’t think there’s been anything formal in the works, but this is an organization that I’ve really seen a transformation take place … .” Arrieta will be arb-eligible for the first time next year, entering his age-29 season, and could not have set himself up much better. His current line: 2.77 ERA over 110 1/3 innings with 9.2 K/9 against 2.4 BB/9.
- The Diamondbacks will be in the market for starting pitching over the coming winter, and could look to the Japanese market to fill the need, reports Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. Having worked to increase the team’s presence in Japan, the D’backs have been among the many teams watching 26-year-old righty Kenta Maeda, says Piecoro.
- Braves righty Cody Martin drew plenty of interest as the club looked to bolster its bullpen and bench at the trade deadline, writes Bill Ballew of Baseball America. With a solid feel for multiple quality offerings, Martin has drawn comparisons to Kris Medlen and is viewed as a solid rotation or pen candidate despite his lack of a single plus pitch.
In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe discusses the rash of injuries to pitchers. Some are suggesting that MLB lower the mound, which would reduce stress on the shoulder and elbow by reducing some of the downward force. Red Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves has a different idea. “You have to stop shrinking the strike zone,” he said. “It has to be expanded. It’s incredible what you’re asking of pitchers nowadays. You expect them to throw the baseball into this tiny box. Do you know how much stress that puts on a pitcher’s arm? Just remembering when I pitched, the strike zone is so tiny compared to back then. It’s impossible to think that you make a pitcher hit that tiny box and not have it affect the health of a pitcher over time.” Here’s more from today’s column..
- Baseball executives think they’ll have their eyes on Cliff Lee if the Phillies fall out of the race. The Yankees would have plenty of competition for Lee, perhaps even from the Red Sox, who have long coveted him, especially given his past relationship with John Farrell. The Red Sox also have more to give than the Yankees in terms of prospects. Lee, 35, will earn $25MM this season and next, and has a $27.5MM option for 2016, which vests with 200 innings in 2015 or 400 innings in 2014-15.
- It’s expected that teams that missed out on Masahiro Tanaka will bid for Hiroshima Toyo Carp standout Kenta Maeda. The Red Sox have scouted Maeda quite a bit and he’s garnering attention, even though he is not as accomplished as Tanaka.
- Cafardo asked four GMs if they would rework John Lackey’s 2015 salary at the major league minimum if they were running the Red Sox. Three said no, that Lackey had agreed to play for the minimum in a sixth year if he lost a year to Tommy John surgery. The consensus was Lackey would be even more motivated to have a big year if he was playing for another big contract.
- The Phillies didn’t have any suitors for Jonathan Papelbon over the offseason, but now that he’s pitched through some difficulty he may have a market. The Phillies may not get a whole lot for him, however.