The crowded 2014/15 pitching market will not get anymore crowded, and we’ll have to wait to see if the 2015/16 pitching market is the one that gets an additional injection of talent.
I refer to the long-awaited posting decision on Japanese righty Kenta Maeda, one of the best pitchers in NPB, whom many thought we be the next Japanese ace to go through the posting system and come to MLB. It won’t happen, according to the Kyodo News and Japan Times. Maeda’s team, according to those reports, has informed the 26-year-old that he will not be posted this offseason.
Maeda is not eligible for international free agency until after the 2017 season, so this dance may well pop up again next offseason (and then possibly again the next offseason). If it comes next year, though, Maeda will be facing a potentially very crowded market, which could include a number of front-end arms in the United States – Jordan Zimmermann, David Price, Jeff Samardzija, Johnny Cueto, Zack Greinke (if he opts out), Rick Porcello, Mat Latos, and many more – as well as fellow Japanese arm, Chihiro Kaneko, who can be a free agent after next season.
Recall, the new posting system between NPB and MLB imposes a $20 million cap on bids, so it’s possible that waiting will not hurt Maeda’s team (which could see maximum bids regardless of the rest of the market, since $20 million is a a relatively small investment for a quality arm – especially when that amount is refundable if a deal isn’t consummated) as much as it might hurt Maeda.
The market for Maeda was never entirely clear, since the posting decision was always up in the air. It’s not likely that the Cubs were going to pursue him, but it’s good to know that they already landed two of their preferred arms – Jon Lester and Jason Hammel – this offseason, and aren’t completely screwed because they were hoping on Maeda. I wonder if there are any teams out there in that position (Yankees?).
I also wonder if the definitive decision on Maeda will spark any additional trade activity in the pitching market.