Although he’s not expected to be quite the impact starter that Yu Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka were before him, Japanese righty Kenta Maeda, 26, is the big name to follow this offseason when it comes to posting from the NPB. If Tanaka was Darvish lite, perhaps we can consider Maeda Tanaka lite.
… or can we?
Nick Cafardo hears from a Japanese source that the final contract for Kenta Maeda, if he’s posted, could be in the six-year, $120 to $130 million range (plus the $20 million posting fee). That’s borderline Tanaka money.
It’s an arresting total for a guy who is a couple years older than Tanaka was when he was posted, and whose stats in Japan simply don’t stack up against Tanaka’s. The latter started his pro career at just 18, amassed a 2.30 ERA, 8.5 K/9, and 1.9 BB/9 over 1315 innings in Japan, and was utterly dominant in his final three years in Japan. Maeda, by contrast, started his pro career at age 20, is at 2.43 ERA, 7.3 K/9, and 1.9 BB/9 over 1295.1 innings, and hasn’t really been any better his last few years than his first few.
Is he really going to get nearly the same AAV as Tanaka?
Tanaka’s deal, with the posting fee, cost a total of $175 million over 7 years, or $25 million per year. If Maeda was at $130 million over six years, throwing in the posting fee makes his cost the same $25 million per year. I have trouble wrapping my head around that, if the scouting reports that have Maeda as a 3/4 type in the States are accurate.
And it’s not like the Cuban market where teams have decided, in progressive fashion each year, that they missed the boat on deals from prior seasons, escalating the price tags as confidence builds that skills will translate in MLB. The Japanese market is well scouted, and how skills will translate to the big leagues are well understood. The big name last year was Tanaka, and it’s not like all other teams are kicking themselves for missing out on a chance to top the seven-year, $155 million (plus $20 million posting fee (plus opt-out after four years)) deal he got from the Yankees. Yes, Tanaka was dominant right out of the gate … but then he broke. That is all to say: it’s not like the market for Japanese starters has shifted dramatically from last year, explaining by itself a spike in the expected price tag for Maeda.
All in all, I have three thoughts:
1. Cafardo’s source may be engaging in some wishful thinking about what Maeda will get (which he’s hoping to get, specifically, from the Yankees or Red Sox, by the way).
2. Or, the third party scouting on Maeda is way off from the industry scouting, which has Maeda much better than we previously thought.
3. Either way, if Maeda’s price tag winds up that high, I’m going to guess that the Cubs won’t be serious pursuers. Without as much upside as Tanaka (and a couple years older), why spend $140 to $150 million for six years of Maeda when you can get one of the top stateside arms for the same amount? (That said, the Cubs might as well bid the maximum posting fee, which is refundable if you don’t get the guy, and see what’s what.)