Japanese ace Maeda to be posted

Japanese ace Maeda to be posted

With Japanese ace Kenta Maeda reportedly being posted, the clock is now ticking for Major League clubs looking to sign the coveted right-hander.

MLB.com confirmed on Wednesday morning that the Hiroshima Carp of the Japan Central League are posting Maeda, making him available to Major League clubs via the bidding process.

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Maeda, 27, has pitched for the Carp since 2008. Since then, he has amassed a record of 97-67 and posted an ERA of 2.39. Last year, Maeda went 15-8 with a 2.09 ERA in 29 starts. He earned his second Sawamura Award, given to the league's top pitcher.

In each of the past six seasons, Maeda has made at least 26 starts and finished with an ERA of less than 2.60.

Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported that the bidding process will begin Thursday. Baseball America's Ben Adler tweeted that he believes the Carp will set Maeda's release fee -- the amount that interested teams would pay in order to secure the right to bid for Maeda -- at $20 million, the maximum amount allowed under the current posting rules, which went into effect in 2013.

Beginning the day after the player is posted, and concluding 30 days later, any Major League team will be free to pay the $20 million -- which will go to the Carp as compensation -- and then negotiate with Maeda's agents for a contract. Teams that bid but do not sign Maeda will not lose their $20 million fee.

Reports this offseason have considered the Yankees, Mariners, Red Sox, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants and D-backs -- who have already made a splash on the starting pitching free-agent market this week -- as possible suitors.

"I love Maeda," Arizona GM Dave Stewart said. "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."

ESPN.com's Jayson Stark reported Tuesday that the Giants are "expected to make a major push," and that Maeda's "friends say he'd prefer the West Coast."

While Maeda has put up stats in Nippon Professional Baseball that compare favorably to the likes of Masahiro Tanaka and Yu Darvish, Maeda's slight frame (he's listed at 6-foot, 154 pounds) and average fastball velocity (he sits in the low 90s) suggest that he won't command a contract commensurate with an ace, even if his release fee is the maximum $20 million.

Maeda also helped to lead Japan to a third-place finish in the WBSC Premier 12 tournament last month. In the 2013 World Baseball Classic, he went 2-1 with a 0.60 ERA in 15 innings, while striking out 18 and allowing just six hits and one run.

In 2010, when Maeda won his first Sawamura Award (15-8 record, 2.21 ERA, 174 strikeouts in 215 2/3 innings), he became the youngest pitcher in Japanese baseball history to achieve the pitching Triple Crown.

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With a 2.39 ERA since the outset of the 2008 season -- all with the Hiroshima Carp of the Japan Central League, the talent level of which is oft-regarded as comparable to that seen in Triple-A -- Maeda has produced a body of work overseas that will immediately grab the attention of fantasy owners. Given the success of Japanese-trained starters such as Darvish and Tanaka, fantasy owners have learned that talented imports like Maeda can be difference-makers in their rookie Major League campaigns.

Maeda will undoubtedly be part of mixed-league lineups on Opening Day -- assuming he comes to terms with a big league franchise -- but his '16 draft-day value hinges on his landing spot. If the 27-year-old signs with a National League club that calls home to a pitcher-friendly venue, he could fly off fantasy boards around Round 10 in 12-team mixed-league drafts. But given his peripheral stats in Japan (career 7.4 K/9, 1.9 BB/9), wise fantasy owners should consider the right-hander with the realistic expectation of getting stats similar to those of a No. 3 mixed-league starter, rather than an ace. Maeda could also be one to eat innings for fantasy staffs, as he has long been one of Japan's most durable hurlers -- finishing in the top 5 among Central Leaguers in frames during each of the past seven years.

Joey Nowak is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.