Los Angeles Dodgers Take Another Step In Improving Rotation, Inks Japanese Hurler Kenta Maeda

The Los Angeles Dodgers were fifth in Major League Baseball in pitching last year and appear to have improved their rotation despite losing top-flight starter Zack Greinke to the Arizona Diamondbacks earlier this offseason.

The Dodgers went 92-70 and won the NL West pennant for the third straight season, however, they were discarded in the divisional round of the playoffs by the New York Mets in five games. Los Angeles has not reached the World Series since 1988.

On Wednesday, the Dodgers signed lefty Scott Kazmir to a three-year, $48 million contract, and now the team has reportedly come to terms with Japanese sensational pitcher Kenta Maeda according to Reuters.

Maeda pitched in Japan last year for the Hiroshima Carp, posting a 15-8 record with a 2.09 ERA in 206.1 innings to earn a second Eiji Sawamura Award as the top starting pitcher in the league according to ESPN. The right-hander threw five complete games, struck out 175 batters, and walked 41 batters while permitting 168 hits.

Overall, Maeda went 97-67 with a 2.39 ERA along with 29 complete games and 10 shutouts in eight season with the Carp. The 27-year-old Japan won the bronze medal at the Premier12 tournament.

Maeda’s contract is reportedly for eight years, although that hasn’t been confirmed by the Dodgers, who will pay Hiroshima a fee of $20 million, the maximum allowed under the posting agreement between MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB). The New York Post’s Joel Sherman tweeted the deal is for five-plus years and loaded with incentives.

The Arizona Diamondbacks, Seattle Mariners, New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs, and Dodgers were all said to be interested in Maeda.

Maeda is expected to join three-time Cy Young Award recipient Clayton Kershaw, Kazmir, Brett Anderson, Alex Wood, and perhaps Hyun-Jin Ryu. The Dodgers have plenty of depth with Mike Bolsinger, Brandon McCarthy, Joe Wieland, Zach Lee, and Carlos Frias. Pitching depth is always good, as no MLB team used eight starting pitchers. The Dodgers started 16 different pitchers.

In addition, top prospects Julio Urias, Jose De Leon, and Jharel Cotton will be ready soon.

With the amount of depth the Dodgers have, they may look to trade Wood. Wood went 12-12 with 3.84 ERA in 32 starts. The 24-year-old lefty is 26-26 with 3.30 ERA in 97 career games, including 67 starts.

What exactly does Maeda bring to the Dodgers?

According to Eric Logenhagen an ESPN insider, Maeda has a deep repertoire of pitches that includes a fastball that ranges between 87 and 92 mph. He also possesses a slider, which he uses about 25 percent of the time, changeup, cutter, and curveball. Maeda is projected to a back-end type starter, who has above-average control and knows how to sequence his pitches.

Here a scouting report from Daniel Brim of Dodgers Digest.

“He tops out in the lower 90s, is more of a grounder/soft contact pitcher than one who will get a lot of strikeouts. He can be a bit of a nibbler at times. His secondary pitches are decent but not ace-level, but he commands those pitches very well. It’s a good combination, but one which will require a lot of skill to move over to the majors. There aren’t a lot of comparable pitchers who made the jump.”

There are injury concerns for Maeda. He’s had some minor elbow issues in the past, as well as an oblique injury. He weighs in at a slender 154 pounds.

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[Image via Los Angeles Dodgers Twitter]