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Red Sox scouting Japanese ace Kenta Maeda

The Red Sox might find at least part of their replacement for Jon Lester outside the free agent market, if recent scouting in Japan is any indication.

Chung Sung-Jun

The Red Sox traded Jon Lester this summer, and while they claim to be set to make a push for him as a free agent this winter, it's unknown how serious their offer will be considered, or if it will merit consideration at all. With that in mind, seeing them look elsewhere for pitching -- either in addition to or in case they don't get Lester back -- is comforting, especially when that elsewhere has taken them to Japan and Kenta Maeda, according to the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo.

Maeda is the top pitcher in Japan who was the number two arm when Masahiro Tanaka was still in Nippon Professional Baseball. While there was initially question as to whether the Hiroshima Carp would post their ace after he expressed interest in joining MLB late last year, he's set be posted in November, with bidding likely to follow from a number of MLB teams. Remember, the posting rules have changed: it's no longer a blind auction, as teams just have to be willing to pay what is basically a release fee. Maeda will be free to negotiate with every team in Baseball, and then whichever one signs him will owe the Carp $25 million, up from last winter's $20 million.

Given that all Maeda will cost is money, something the Red Sox have plenty of -- and that the release fee will not count against the luxury tax -- it would be surprising if Boston were not heavily involved in the negotiating process. They have a clear need for at least one pitcher, if not two, and while Maeda will end up being expensive, he'll also turn 27 just a couple of weeks into the 2015 season. Pitchers that young and that good are rarely, if ever, available on free agency, especially in this day and age where the ones who could be, like Clayton Kershaw, are snatched up long-term while still in their arbitration years.

Please do not confuse that for me saying Maeda equals Kershaw. He's far from it, actually, as he's good, but not considered to be at that Yu Darvish or Masahiro Tanaka level, according to those Baseball America's Ben Badler spoke with last winter. Given Boston's dislike for a massive pitcher contract, though, Maeda makes even more sense, as he could be potentially had for fewer years and dollars than some of the arms on the domestic free agent market, while still giving the Red Sox a better pitcher than most, if not all, of what they have planned for the 2015 rotation at present, and the room to add more as necessary. Clay Buchholz, Kenta Maeda, Joe Kelly, Rubby De La Rosa, and an as of yet unnamed number two quality pitcher could turn out to be a quality staff, especially if the lineup progresses as hoped and expected.