Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

kenta maedaIt’s been rumored for a while, but it wasn’t a lock until now: Japanese ace Kenta Maeda will be made available to MLB teams via the posting system, per a report out of Japan and Ken Rosenthal.

Maeda, 27, won the NPB’s equivalent of the Cy Young this past season, posting a 2.09 ERA over 206.1 innings and 29 starts. He struck out 175 batters and walked 41. The general thinking is that he’s not Masahiro Tanaka or Yu Darvish, but he could be an effective middle-of-the-rotation starter or better in MLB. For more on Maeda, the pitcher, I’d recommend this recent take by Ben Badler.

Need a refresher on the posting system?

Well, after changes a couple years ago, it works like this: when the player is posted, MLB teams have until a certain date to submit blind bids to win the rights to negotiate with the player, up to a maximum of a $20 million bid. If multiple teams bid $20 million – as is to be expected with a big-timer – then all of those teams will be able to negotiate with the player over the next month. Only the team that actually signs the player will be on the hook for the $20 million posting fee.

How much is Maeda worth? Well, it’s a fair bet that multiple teams will make the $20 million posting bid, and the negotiations will start from there. Eno Sarris did the best someone can do at projecting a contract for an international pitcher like Maeda, and he came up with a pretty wide range on a hypothetical deals, though he settled on a value in the six-year, $105 million range (which includes the posting fee).

Will Maeda actually get that much in a market teaming with pitching options? Maybe. Maybe not. If it gets to that level, you might not see the Cubs aggressively involved, given their needs and the risk. Then again, it wasn’t quite clear just how involved the Cubs were going to be with Masahiro Tanaka until he was actually posted. If the Cubs believe Maeda projects better than other teams, well, then, hey, you can’t rule anything out.

For now, though, I simply take this as good news for the Cubs in this respect: it’s another attractive pitching target on the free agent market, which could open up additional opportunities for the Cubs, either with Maeda, or other pitchers who linger a little longer because of Maeda’s now availability.

It’s not exactly clear to me just yet when bids will be due on Maeda, and when it will become clear which teams are involved. And, then, because of the 30-day negotiating period, this will take some time to play out. You have to wonder if that, too, will hold up the free agent market a little bit for some of the other pitchers.

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