Maeda to Dodgers? Here are millions of reasons it makes complete sense

December 23, 2015

The Los Angeles Dodgers are interested in signing Kenta Maeda and are in ongoing contact with his representatives, sources say.

Provided the Dodgers continue operating as they have during the free-spending tenure of owner Mark Walter, they have a good chance to sign Maeda, the star Japanese pitcher whom the Hiroshima Toyo Carp made available through the posting system earlier this month.

The deadline for Major League Baseball clubs to sign Maeda -- and commit to paying the Carp a $20 million release fee -- is Jan. 8 at 5 p.m. ET. If history is any guide, Maeda will agree to a contract right before the deadline, two weeks from Friday.

The January deadline and nature of the posting fee should aid the Dodgers.

As the old baseball bromide goes, teams become less inclined to add payroll the closer they get to spring training; that’s especially the case when an extra $20 million is due on top of the player’s contract.

The Dodgers should be impervious to such concerns. They established two major-league spending records in 2015, according to the Associated Press: a $291 million payroll and almost $43.6 million in luxury tax payments.

When the current posting system took effect two years ago, my FOX Sports colleague Ken Rosenthal reported that the maximum $20 million fee -- as was the case with Masahiro Tanaka -- is broken up into two payments: $13 million due in the first year, followed by $7 million in the second.

Again, the question remains how many teams are willing to add the $13 million expense on top of Maeda’s first-year salary -- even if the posting fee doesn’t count toward the luxury-tax calculation.

Maeda, 27, is viewed by some baseball scouts as being comparable to Mike Leake, who is five months older and just signed a five-year, $80 million contract with the St. Louis Cardinals. Maeda is believed to prefer a team based on the West Coast, partially because of the access to flights home to Japan.

So, which West Coast team can commit $100 million to a pitcher right after the New Year? Probably the one that just supported the largest payroll in North American professional sports history . . . and is two starting pitchers short, after failing to re-sign Zack Greinke or complete a deal with veteran Hisashi Iwakuma.

More notes as the baseball industry prepares to (supposedly) break for the Christmas holiday:

. . . Recently, San Francisco Giants general manager Bobby Evans told MLB Network Radio that he values versatility in his team’s search for a left fielder. (I interpret that to mean he’d like his new left fielder to be comfortable spelling Angel Pagan in center.) Evans also spoke during the interview about a scarcity of available outfielders who could bat in the middle of a team’s lineup.

Wait, is that a yellow-sleeved arm I see rising above the crowd?

Yes, Yoenis Cespedes fits what the Giants need. He’s expensive, of course, but at least he wouldn’t cost a draft pick. Meanwhile, the Giants also are speaking with the Colorado Rockies about their available outfielders.

Rockies GM Jeff Bridich appears willing to trade within the division, as long as he gets the pitching he desperately needs. That said, it’s hard to imagine he wants to trade Carlos Gonzalez -- an MVP talent when healthy -- to a National League West rival.

Charlie Blackmon, with a .789 OPS over the past three seasons, is the more feasible acquisition for San Francisco. Blackmon bats left-handed and played all three outfield positions for the Rockies this year.

. . . Right-hander Yovani Gallardo and left-hander Scott Kazmir seem to occupy the same tier in the minds of team executives in search of rotation upgrades. Sources confirmed Tuesday that the Orioles and Royals are among the teams still pursuing Kazmir; the Orioles also are known to have interest in Gallardo.

. . . Speaking of the Orioles, here’s a sobering note for Baltimore fans as Chris Davis remains unsigned: The team’s current roster combined to hit 25 home runs from the left side in 2015; Davis slugged 47 all by himself.

Yet, Baltimore GM Dan Duquette must balance the undeniable appeal in retaining Davis’ powerful bat with a need to fill multiple holes in the lineup.

The outfield probably is an even greater concern than first base, Davis’ primary position for the past three years. If Davis signs elsewhere, the Orioles could start the newly acquired veteran Mark Trumbo at first. The solutions are less straightforward in the outfield, where if the season started today Adam Jones would be flanked by some combination of Nolan Reimold, Ryan Flaherty, Dariel Alvarez, L.J. Hoes and Henry Urrutia, with Jimmy Paredes at designated hitter.

So who’s the biggest threat to sign Davis away from Camden Yards? If only the Angels weren’t paying Josh Hamilton more than $20 million per year to play for a division rival, they might well be the answer. Davis could ease the burden on Albert Pujols (right foot surgery) by sharing time with him at first base and DH, while providing an ideal left-handed complement to Pujols and Mike Trout. But there’s plenty of doubt as to whether owner Arte Moreno is ready to hand out another lavish contract to a slugger.