Just like holiday music, we hear the same song over and over again from the Marlins. The organization wants to obtain quality starting pitching, but doesn't want to pay too much for it. Unfortunately, those two things rarely go together.
Everyone is aware that the Marlins are a small-market team, and this means that they won't be throwing their money around to compete for the best free-agent pitchers available. To make things worse for the Fish, the David Price contract may well indicate that teams will be paying more than ever for solid arms this winter. Even middle of the rotation arms, like Yovani Gallardo, could be out of the team's budget.
The other way the Marlins could bolster the rotation is by conducting trades, but apart from Martin Prado and Marcell Ozuna, the team doesn't really have any trade chips. It is also highly likely that Prado and Ozuna are worth far less than the club would like to believe. So, with the lack of money available to sign a highly-rated free-agent arm, and almost no one to use as trade bait, what should the team do? Make an investment.
Kenta Maeda is most probably about to become the next high-profile pitcher to come out of Japan. The 27 year-old posted an ERA of 2.09 in 206.1 innings in the Japan Central League this year. He is listed as six feet tall, 154 pounds, and his fastball reaches the low 90s. Although Maeda's stat line is impressive, it looks pedestrian compared to Masahiro Tanaka's final season in Japan (24-0, 1.27 ERA), and his small frame and velocity could deter some MLB teams.
For these reasons, the Marlins should pursue him strongly. Kenta Maeda is a quality pitcher, there is no doubt about it, and he could possibly be a bargain due to his relatively slow fastball and size. Of course, there is the release fee of up to $20 million that has to be paid before a contract can be negotiated, but that is nothing compared to the increase in revenue the team could see.
As a result of signing Ichiro Suzuki last winter, nearly 100 Marlins games were shown on Japanese TV in 2015. If you went to Marlins Park this summer, you would have seen Japanese billboards, Japanese beer being sold, and Japanese tourists who had traveled half way around the world to see Ichiro play.
Now just imagine if the Fish signed a star Japanese pitcher too; the Japanese viewing interest in the Marlins would go through the roof, and that is something that the club could really take advantage of and profit from. Ichiro could really help Maeda to settle in as well, which gives the organization another advantage.
Pitchers from Japan sometimes have the tendency to suffer injuries when they transition to the MLB due to the change in workload. However, the Marlins could cover their backs by offering a lower annual salary and adding bonuses if Maeda completes a certain number of starts.
Let's be honest, it is more likely that Miami starts to wear the teal uniforms again than a successful Fish signing of Kenta Maeda. However, this option to improve the rotation should be seriously considered. A potential ace-caliber Japanese pitcher for a similar price or less (with the way this winter is shaping up) than an average MLB free-agent?That seems like a no-brainer. The ability to market this team globally could result in money streaming into Jeffrey Loria's pockets, but only if he is willing to make the investment in the first place.