Kenta Maeda: A Future with the Dodgers?

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With the sizzle of the 2015 Baseball Winter Meetings now losing steam, the Dodgers have a rare opportunity to focus their efforts on another free agent prize — Japanese righty Kenta Maeda.

Maeda’s posting process will begin on December 10, when interested teams will have the opportunity to submit the $20 million release fee, giving such teams the chance to negotiate a contract. It’s a no-risk scenario, as the teams that fail to sign Maeda will ultimately have that fee refunded.

Preliminary speculation suggests that a contract in the vicinity of 5 years/$60 million may win the services of Maeda, in addition to the $20 million going to the Hiroshima Carp as compensation.

Maeda, who will be 28 at the beginning of the 2016 season, is considered by many the top current pitcher in Japan. He began pitching professionally at age 20 for the Carp in 2008. In 2015, he posted a 15-8 record, hurling 206+ innings while recording a 2.09 ERA, 7.6 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9.

His banner year may have been 2013, when he fanned 171 batters in 206 innings while logging a 1.53 ERA. His efforts for both of those years earned him Sawamura Awards — Japan’s equivalent to MLB’s Cy Young Award.

According to scouting reports, his early projection is to be a workhorse-type — possibly slotting in as a solid #3 or #4 starter upon his arrival to MLB.

Baseball America‘s Ben Badler recently posted a scouting report (subscription required) on Maeda, which he offered the following analysis (excerpt):

“Maeda has shown solid stuff across the board, with a fastball that sits at 89-93 mph and can touch 94, a tick above-average slider that he leans on heavily, along with a curveball and a changeup … While Maeda’s slider is usually his go-to secondary pitch, his best offspeed weapon in two starts against Mexico and Puerto Rico was his changeup.”

Needless to say, without any seasoning required in the minors, Maeda would fit nicely into a questionable Dodgers’ rotation that desperately needs depth. Beside Clayton Kershaw, Hisashi Iwakuma, Brett Anderson and Alex Wood, Maeda would be poised to make an immediate impact.

With the return of both Hyun-jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy at some point in 2016, and a strong debut from either Julio Urias or Jose De Leon, a healthy and deep Dodgers starting rotation could possibly rank among the top-five in the National League.

The not-so-good news for Dodgers fans is that Arizona GM Dave Stewart has already showed strong interest in Maeda, and with the revenue from a new, lucrative TV deal in-hand, the Diamondbacks could make a run at the Japanese righty.

Stewart offered up this statement last winter:

“I love Maeda. 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.”

Having already bolstered their rotation by adding Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller, with Maeda the Diamondbacks could go from being considered a contender to a possible favorite to win the NL West.

After showing a somewhat frugal wallet so far this winter, Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi must pursue Maeda at all costs — not just to bolster their own rotation, but to prevent a division rival from getting even stronger.

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