St. Louis Cardinals: The case for Kenta Maeda


Could the St. Louis Cardinals have interest in the next star from Japan, Kenta Maeda?

We all know the Cardinals main interest right now is re-signing Jason Heyward, but they could be secretly planning to make a bid on newly posted Japanese star Kenta Maeda. According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Maeda is a free agent to watch for as the winter meetings ramp up and the Cardinals continue their quest for a starting pitcher to make up for lost innings from John Lackey and Lance Lynn.

The Cardinals reportedly made a bid to enter negotiations with Korean slugger Byung-ho Park, but came up short of the bid with the Minnesota Twins winning the bid and signing Park to a relatively cheap deal. However, the process to sign the Hiroshima Carp ace is a little bit different as Derrick Goold explains in the latest “Best Podcast in Baseball”. The Cardinals would enter into a “blind auction” in order to sign Maeda. The way this works is that the Cardinals would have to pay a $20 million posting fee to Hiroshima in order to enter negotiations with Maeda in a “blind auction” scenario.

However, the difference here is that the Cardinals would be bidding for Maeda’s services along with any other team that is willing to pay the initial $20 million posting fee. MLB Trade Rumors predicts that Maeda would likely get a deal somewhere around six years and $60 Million, which isn’t too bad even when you throw in the $20 Million posting fee.

That would be less than what Jeff Samardzija got from the Giants, and potentially less than what a Mike Leake would cost. Not to mention that you get what everyone considers to be an ace at age 27. Definitely a good bargain if the Japanese pitcher is as good as advertised. Given the success of other Japanese pitchers in the league, there’s no reason to think otherwise.

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This would be a sneaky good move for John Mozeliak, the 6’0 154 lb right-hander had an ERA of 2.14 last season and hasn’t posted an ERA three since his second season in Hiroshima in 2009, when he had an ERA of 3.36. Maeda has also averaged a WHIP just above 1.000 the past six years of his career, including three years under that mark. Maeda would slot nicely in the number three hole. Even if Maeda wants to get a deal closer to Masahiro Tanaka‘s deal, as FanSided’s Kyle Franzoni mentioned, it is still a bit of a bargain for the Cardinals.

While John Mozeliak has come out and said that the St. Louis Cardinals aren’t interested in dolling out a long term contract for a pitcher anymore, maybe that is GM speak for “I’m sneakily going after Maeda”? It definitely would be a good play and potentially better deal than any of the remaining free agent starting pitchers. 

Predicting what this team does is becoming harder and harder especially with the news of the Jon Jay/Jedd Gyorko deal. Maybe Maeda is an option most Cardinals fans haven’t thought of, or maybe they really are more comfortable with a lower risk deal. When they have the likes of Tim Cooney and Marco Gonzales available, with Alex Reyes and Luke Weaver on the rise, you can see why. 

Next: St. Louis Cardinals Top 10 Free Agent Signings

As much as I like the potential of a Maeda deal for the Cardinals, I think they likely pass on this guy. As I said yesterday, I think David Price was the one pitcher they were willing to spend “real money” on this offseason and with him off the market, the Cardinals aren’t comfortable with what the market now offers.