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Clock ticking for teams interested in Maeda

The clock is ticking on Kenta Maeda, the ace Japanese right-hander posted nearly two weeks ago. According to FOX Sports, the posting came with a deadline: The Major League team that gains negotiating rights to Maeda has to sign him by 5 p.m. ET on Jan. 8.

MLB teams normally compete for a player posted by a Japanese team through blind bidding, but it might be misleading to say that Maeda is up for bidding: His Hiroshima club has let it be known it will not release him for less than the maximum $20 million allowed by agreement between MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball.

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Multiple MLB clubs may have been scared off Maeda by that stipulation. The D-backs, for one, are known to have had interest in Maeda until learning of the $20 million buy-in, which would be only the starting point toward a contract industry sources estimate at four to five years with an annual value of about $15 million. Arizona wound up attracting free agent Zack Greinke with a $206 million package.

Maeda's track record and upside make him appealing to clubs still seeking pitching help. He recently earned his second award as Japan's most outstanding pitcher after going 15-8 with a 2.09 ERA in 29 starts, and posting a 175-to-41 strikeouts-to-walks ratio in 206 1/3 innings. He allowed only five home runs.

At 28, Maeda is younger than 29 of the 30 starting pitchers remaining on the "domestic" free-agent market. Mat Latos also is 28, as is Mike Leake, the latest to come off the board with his Tuesday agreement with the Cardinals.

A leading candidate to abide by the financial rules and pursue Maeda are the Dodgers, who have weathered a challenging offseason, losing Greinke to division-rival Arizona and prospective acquisitions Hisashi Iwakuma and Aroldis Chapman over different concerns.

In eight seasons with Hiroshima, the slightly built Maeda -- who's listed at 6-foot and 154 pounds -- has gone 97-67, posting an ERA of 2.39 and a WHIP of 1.05.

Tom Singer is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer.