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Dodgers continue to show interest in Kenta Maeda

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The Dodgers continue to show interest in Japanese free agent pitcher Kenta Maeda, per Jon Morosi of Fox Sports.

There doesn't seem to be a real sense of urgency, with Maeda having a 30-day posting window to negotiate with MLB teams and agree to a contract, a period that expires on Jan. 8 at 5 p.m. ET per Morosi. Most times, the higher-end posted players from Japan or Korea tend to wait until at or near the deadline to sign.

Among posted pitchers with a release fee of at least $20 million, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Yu Darvish and Hyun-jin Ryu all signed on the 30th and final day of their posting period, while Kei Igawa signed on the 29th day in 2006. Masahiro Tanaka, the first major Japanese player posted under the new agreement between NPB and MLB that allows all 30 MLB teams to negotiate with the player instead of just one team, signed on the 28th day two offseasons ago.

In other words, don't expect Maeda to sign before the new year, if history is any guide.

Other free agent pitchers on the market could create a sense of urgency for the Dodgers, should they want fall back options if they don't land Maeda, who if signed would require an additional $20 million release fee due to the Hiroshima Carp.

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports also mentions the Dodgers' interest in Maeda, but also notes Scott Kazmir and Wei-Yin Chen as potential targets. Aside from the interesting dynamic of adding another left-handed pitcher to a starting rotation that already includes southpaws Clayton Kershaw, Brett Anderson and Alex Wood, with Ryu returning from shoulder surgery, it is also interesting how Rosenthal frames the Dodgers' offseason:

So, imagine if the Dodgers end up with Chen and Maeda, Kazmir and Maeda or even Chen and Rays righty Alex Cobb.

Wouldn’t be so bad, would it?

I'm not sure the Dodgers need to acquire two pitchers for their offseason to be a success, though the one they do seem intent on acquiring does need to be an impact pitcher, especially after missing out on Zack Greinke, Johnny Cueto and Hisashi Iwakuma in the hot stove season.

Mike Leake, for instance, came off the market on Tuesday, signing a five-year, $80 million deal with the Cardinals. But it remains to be seen whether at that price if Leake was a missed opportunity for the Dodgers or a dodged bullet.

The highly-touted innings eater averaged just under 200 innings the last three years, reaching 200 innings once so far in his career. Leake in 2015 had a 3.70 in 30 starts, averaging 6.4 innings per outing with a 15.3-percent strikeout rate and 6.3-percent walk rate.

For comparison, Mike Bolsinger and Carlos Frias combined for a 3.93 ERA in 34 starts for the Dodgers in 2015, with a 17.8-percent strikeout rate and 9-percent walk rate, though they averaged a combined 5.3 innings per start.

The question is whether Maeda is an impact pitcher, or simply the best of the rest available on the market.

Maeda, who turns 28 in April, was 15-8 with a 2.09 ERA in 29 starts for Hiroshima in the Japanese Central League, capturing the Eiji Sawamura Award as the top starting pitcher in the league, his second such award in six years.

The numbers for Maeda are impressive, going 97-67 with a 2.39 ERA in eight seasons, including the last six years with an ERA no higher than 2.60 in any one season. Over the last seven seasons, Maeda averaged 28 starts, 200 innings, 168 strikeouts and 41 walks per year.

Maeda was 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in two starts in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, with 15 strikeouts and one walk in 10 innings, allowing just two hits.

Ben Badler at Baseball America wrote on Dec. 2 that several scouts profile the 6-foot Maeda as an immediate No. 4 starter in MLB, but that a new changeup, coupled with his fastball command and good slider could elevate Maeda to a No. 3 pitcher.

That just might be exactly what the Dodgers need.