Aces Chihiro Kaneko and Kenta Maeda to Remain in Japan at Least One More Year
Both Kenta Maeda and Chihiro Kaneko re-signed with their old teams, the Hiroshima Carp and the Orix Buffaloes. I feel fairly certain we will see Maeda posted next off-season, but it looks like Kaneko has decided that his best future lies in Japan’s NPB.
The Carp gave Maeda a one-year 300 million yen deal ($2.49 million) which makes Maeda the first player in team history to make 300 million yen in a season and the youngest player in Central League history to accomplish this feat. However, it represents a raise of just 20 million yen ($166,000) over 2014, in spite of the fact that Maeda has been one of the top starters in NPB since 2010 and the Carp set a single-season attendance record in 2014.
Given the Carp’s stinginess, I fully expect the team to post Maeda next off-season, rather than risk him becoming an unrestricted free agent. Like Kaneko, Maeda is a small right-hander, but seems to hold more interest for MLB clubs, probably because he’s several years younger.
Kaneko has seemingly cast his lot with playing out the remaining prime years of his career in Japan. He signed a four-year 2 billion yen deal ($16.6 million), which should keep him in Japan through his age 34 season.
It’s possible that Kaneko could opt out after a year or two and try signing with an MLB team. However, now that he’s 31, his value to an MLB team should decline each year he remains in Japan.
I suspect that Kaneko did indeed test the waters regarding MLB interest this off-season and didn’t get enough positive feedback to give up the guarantees of remaining in Japan, where he should continue to be a major star and likely has or will get a lot of endorsement deals. Kaneko’s two billion yen deal matches the contract the Yomiuri Giants gave Toshiya Sugiuchi three off-seasons ago and is probably the maximum deal a veteran pitcher can get from an NPB team.