Japanese pitcher Kenta Maeda interested in joining Red Sox


For the second consecutive season, there will be a high-profile Japanese pitcher on the market. Unlike last offseason when Masahiro Tanaka signed a huge contract with the Yankees and the Red Sox remained relatively uninvolved in the Tanaka sweepstakes, however, the Red Sox could be heavily involved this time around.

A year ago, the Red Sox had Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz, Jake Peavy, and Felix Doubront anchoring the staff– a strong front five entering the season– but after trading four of those five and a disappointing season from Buchholz, there are more holes to fill. Buchholz and Joe Kelly are currently the only locks to start next season in the rotation and the Red Sox are expected to pursue at least two starting pitchers on the free agent and trade markets this offseason.

One of those interesting pitchers, Japanese starter Kenta Maeda, has stated that he would prefer to pitch for either the Red Sox or Yankees. Considering the Yankees’ great number of holes to fill in the lineup and relatively strong rotation, this could give the Red Sox an advantage to acquire Maeda.

However, there are some concerns with Maeda that could prevent the Red Sox from pursuing him this offseason. First and foremost among those concerns is that, according to reporter Nick Cafardo, the Red Sox don’t see him being worth the $120-130M contract that he could wind up signing this offseason, projecting him more as a mid-rotation arm than as the top-flight starter Tanaka has proven to be in his first MLB season.

Still, if the Red Sox are able to sign Maeda to a less expensive deal, there are plenty of positive points in his favor. He’s only 26 years old, meaning that even over a relatively long contract, the Red Sox would only see the beginning of his decline rather than falling off a cliff much like fellow free agents Jon Lester and James Shields are likely to do in the latter end of their respective contracts.

Judging from scouting reports, it’s not likely that Maeda will be an ace in the long run (though the same things were said about Tanaka a year ago), but if the Red Sox miss on Lester and Shields, there’s a good chance that they’ll pursue him. Ideally, the Red Sox would be able to acquire both a frontline starter and Maeda, but given the cost of those two combined contracts, that’s not likely. Regardless, it’s good news that Maeda is interested in pitching for the Red Sox and that’s certainly a point that could work in Boston’s favor as they seek solid arms to mend their patchwork rotation.