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Detroit Tigers Links: Could the Tigers look to Japan for pitching?

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Tony Barnette and Kenta Maeda are two names to watch in free agency

Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images

The Tigers have always been an active participant in the trade market when looking to strengthen the team. Even with the transition from Dave Dombrowski to Al Avila, it appears the trend will continue as the team has already swung two deals. But the Tigers have been reluctant to bid on foreign players. Could the change in leadership alter this approach?

If so, the first place the Tigers should look is Japan, land of mystery, video games, and dominant pitching. Multiple options have presented themselves and there is no doubt that Avila will be vetting them. The first, Tony Barnette, is a 32 year old reliever who was initially with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Last year he worked a sparkling 1.29 ERA and 41 saves for Yakult Swallows (mascot for your viewing pleasure). While he has proven a dominant relief arm in Japan and his 500K posting fee is cheap, his 2013 season and less than stable yearly ERA are red flags. That being said, the team could do a lot worse and pay a lot more for someone of similar quality.

Even more attractive is Kenta Maeda, who asked to be posted this week by the Hiroshima Carp (mascot is Philly Phanatic look alike.) Maeda is a two time winner of the Sawamura Award for Japan's top pitcher and has been terrific for just about his whole career:

Year Age Tm W L ERA G GS CG IP WHIP SO9
2008 20 Hiroshima 9 2 3.2 19 18 1 109.2 1.258 4.5
2009 21 Hiroshima 8 14 3.36 29 29 3 193 1.155 6.9
2010 22 Hiroshima 15 8 2.21 28 28 6 215.2 0.983 7.3
2011 23 Hiroshima 10 12 2.46 31 31 4 216 1.023 8
2012 24 Hiroshima 14 7 1.53 29 29 5 206.1 0.994 7.5
2013 25 Hiroshima 15 7 2.1 26 26 3 175.2 0.962 8.1
2014 26 Hiroshima 11 9 2.6 27 27 1 187 1.096 7.7
2015 27 Hiroshima 15 8 2.09 29 29 5 206.1 1.013 7.6
All Levels (8 Seasons) 97 67 2.39 218 217 28 1509.2 1.048 7.4

It remains to be seen if Hiroshima will even post Maeda, but his contract expires in 2017 and the team does not want to lose his services for nothing. If they do post , they will certainly look for the max 20 million dollar posting fee. That may be a big ask for a pitcher that projects as more of a mid to back rotation player, although the recent success of Yu Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka will cause evaluators to project a higher ceiling. That and the fact that his contract would be comparable to Jeff Samardzija or Wei-Yin Chen, not players that bring much excitement, would propel multiple teams to bid.

This should be something to keep an eye on with new leadership. It was always puzzling that the old regime seemed to ignore much of the foreign options and Al Avila has an International Scout of the Year to his name. It would not be surprising if the Tigers are much more active in the Japan or beyond. And I sure wouldn't mind someone with this good of a pitching face joining up with the Tigers in 2016.

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