Kenta Maeda is the next big pitcher set to make the jump from Japan to the MLB, and according to Nick Cafardo he's made it clear that his preference is to join either the Boston Red Sox or the New York Yankees.
It's obviously not the first time these two teams have been pitted against one another for the services of a high-profile free agent. That tends to happen more often than not when you're talking about two of the best-funded franchises in the league. It also maybe puts Maeda's preferences in a slightly...practical context, though I suppose he could have thrown the Dodgers and the like into the mix if he was really just after top dollar.
So the Red Sox have an in on an interesting free agent. Should they try to press that advantage?
Cafardo says Maeda won't be in line for a Masahiro Tanaka sized contract, but the $120-130 million range he proceeds to suggest is not far off that top dollar. That could be an awfully hard sell for a Red Sox team that, according to Rob Bradford, does not necessarily view him as a top-flight arm:
Red Sox' interest in Kenta Maeda will be similar interest in many FA starters (Liriano included). Maeda more middle of rotation option— Rob Bradford (@bradfo) September 17, 2014
In a market with plenty of pitching options, Maeda doesn't really stand out in terms of either price point or proven quality. What he does bring to the table is age. If the Red Sox are averse to signing long-term deals with players on the wrong side of 30, Maeda represents a tempting alternative at just 26 years old. Most if not all of his contract will come during what might be considered his prime years. There is something to be said for the fact that Maeda has been throwing 200 innings a year for the past six seasons, meaning there's more wear and tear on his arm than might be expected for a pitcher his age.
Even taking into account age, though, it's hard to imagine the Red Sox committing that many resources to Kenta Maeda when such a small jump would get them into that top tier of pitcher like Jon Lester, especially when you add the posting fee into the mix.
If, however, Cafardo is off on his estimation, or Bradford is off on how the Sox view Maeda, then Boston might be in a rare position to outbid their New York rivals, given the Yankees' payroll situation and all the roster holes they have to fill. Still, don't be surprised if this isn't plan A or B even for a Boston team with lots of money and serious needs in the rotation.