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.