Mariners News: M’s are interested in Kenta Maeda

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The Seattle Mariners are interested in Kenta Maeda, the latest Japanese star to be posted.  While the Mariners have a surplus in pitching with the signing of Wade Miley and the sudden signing of Hisashi Iwakuma, they are interested in right handed pitcher Kenta Maeda.

The posting process for those that don’t know is an agreement of player transfer between MLB and NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball) as explained by wikipedia.

"“…when an NPB player is “posted”, his NPB team notifies the MLB Commissioner and sets a posting fee not exceeding $20 million. The player is then given 30 days to negotiate with any MLB team willing to pay the NPB team’s set posting fee. If the player agrees on contract terms with a team before the 30-day period has expired, the NPB team receives the posting fee from the signing MLB team as a transfer fee, and the player is free to play in MLB. If no MLB team comes to a contract agreement with the posted player, then no fee is paid, and the player’s rights revert to his NPB team.”"

According to Jon Heyman the Hiroshima Toyo Carp set the posting fee at $20 million.  Jon Morosi notes that Maeda was posted on December 10th and the deadline to negotiate with any team willing to pay the posting fee is January 8th at 5pm.

The report above about the Mariners being one of the teams interested in Kenta Maeda came out on December 16th out of NPB.  Hisashi Iwakuma signed with the Mariners on December 17th just after the Los Angeles Dodgers backed out due to concerns over the physical.  There has been a lot of speculation that the Dodgers will be the team to sign Maeda based on their loss of Zack Greinke to free agency and backing out of the Iwakuma signing.  But does this mean the Seattle Mariners are out of the running?  It is very possible but not necessarily accurate.  No information has come out about the Mariners dropping out of the running.

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Jerry Dipoto, the Seattle Mariners GM, has been on a mission to improve this team from day one.  When the Dodgers won the pursuit for Hisashi Iwakuma, he signed Wade Miley.

At that point he was willing to begin the 2016 season with Felix Hernandez, Taijuan Walker, Wade Miley, James Paxton, and Nathan Karns as the starting staff with Vidal Nuño and Mike Montgomery also competing for spots on the staff and able to come in to start when needed due to innings limits on other starters.    Then Dipoto jumped to sign Hisashi Iwakuma who immediately slots in behind Felix Hernandez as the number two starter.  So this is definitely an improved rotation and there is a surplus of starters.

However, even after bolstering the starting staff there is a concern that Karns, Paxton, and Walker have not pitched 200 innings in a season yet.  Iwakuma has not hit that mark in the most recent two seasons either.  The extra starters may be needed.  As was seen in the most recent post season run for several teams, having extra starters is extremely helpful.

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Maeken, as he known (MAEda, KENta) was the best pitcher in NPB last season when he won his second Sawamura award (NPB’s equivalent to the Cy Young).    The 6-foot 27 year old had a stellar season in 2015.  In 206.1 innings and  29 starts Maeken had a 2.09 ERA, 1.013 WHIP and a strikeout to walk ratio of 4.27 while posting 15 wins and eight losses.  These numbers are fairly close to his career numbers which are 2.39 ERA, 1.048 WHIP and a strikeout to walk ratio of 3.87.  In 8 seasons in NPB he’s averaged 188.6 innings pitched and he’s eclipsed 200 innings four different seasons.  He’s also won 3 gold gloves.

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His arsenal is well described at Graveyard Baseball.  According to Graveyard Baseball, Maeken has a two and four seam fastball in the low 90’s, a below average changeup, a slow curve, and his best pitch is a devastating slider. He projects to be a number three starter with a ceiling of a number two.  The assessment also notes that he doesn’t give up the long ball and he’s very similar to Hisashi Iwakuma.  It also projects that Maeken will most likely command a deal of four years at $95 million plus the $20 million posting fee.  For some visual evidence of his stuff here’s a video.

Another important element is that Maeken would prefer to stay on the west coast.  ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark reported that Maeda’s “friends say he’d prefer the West Coast.”  That would reduce the preferred list from the interested teams on the NPB article down to the Dodgers, Angels, Mariners, Padres.  Of those four teams only one team has Japanese players, the Mariners.   Nori Aoki mentioned during his press conference that his deal hinged on Hisashi Iwakuma re-signing with Seattle.  I’m sure Kenta Maeda can be greatly influenced by his countrymen.

Having said all that, Jerry Dipoto may be at his financial limit.   It is believed he over his budget for the roster and a special request was approved by ownership to bring Iwakuma back.  Dipoto was not interested in giving Iwakuma a three year deal initially but this was most likely not due to money.  It is probably due to Iwakuma’s age and inability to reach 200 innings.  Iwakuma will be 35 in April.  In order to bring the 27 year old Maeken to Seattle, the Mariners would have to be serious about bringing another ace to Seattle.  They would have to be willing to spend some money to save themselves some money.  Maeken has the numbers that Zack Greinke has and is not commanding Zack Greinke type money.  It is highly unlikely that the Mariners will make a decision to spend money on Maeken.  There would probably be other moves that would need to be made to make this a reality if they won the bid as there is a surplus of starting pitchers.  But this would be the most Jerry Dipoto type of move yet.  Maeken brings excellent numbers, an above average arsenal, and for a very good price.  It may not make cents financially but it makes complete sense in so many ways.