One day after bolstering their rotation with the signing of Scott Kazmir, the Los Angeles Dodgers reportedly agreed to terms with Japanese hurler Kenta Maeda on New Year’s Eve.
At this time, the specifics of Maeda’s new deal with the Dodgers are unclear, but there are several tidbits of information available. Meola added that Maeda’s deal is “definitely for eight years,” but will likely contain several incentives to make it that long, meaning the contract probably won’t be an outright eight-year commitment.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post chimed in, saying that the contract is “complicated” but will be “at least five years” long.
Told Maeda agreement with #Dodgers is complicated and at least 5 yrs, and loaded with performance bonuses.
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) December 31, 2015
The one certainty surrounding Maeda is the Dodgers having to pay a $20 million posting fee to Maeda’s former team, the Hiroshima Carp.
For those unaware, there is a posting system in place between Major League Baseball (MLB) and Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) and Korea’s Korean Baseball Organization (KBO). The system is designed so that teams are compensated when their players choose to leave either NPB or KBO to sign with a Major League team. More information about this system can be found here.
Maeda told Kyodo News (via MLB.com) that his goal is to win a title with the Carp, but the ultimate goal is to sign with an MLB team.
“I want to go while I’m still young, and I want to win a championship with the Carp. While I’ve gone back and forth between those two goals, my desire to go has not lessened, and in fact has become even stronger.”
Since 2010, Maeda has averaged 13 wins, a 2.16 ERA, and 201-and-one-third innings. Also, despite Maeda not having overpowering velocity, his career 1.9 BB/9 rate in the NPB shows that he possesses excellent control.
MLB Trade Rumors noted that Maeda’s small stature (6-feet tall, 154 pounds) is the reason he’s been referred to as an injury risk. But, he has not posted less than 175-and-two-thirds innings since his first full season in 2009.
Maeda has also bolstered his arsenal as a pitcher, per Ben Badler of Baseball America (via MLB Trade Rumors). According to Badler, Maeda has “shown a new-look changeup that may have surpassed his slider as his best-offspeed pitch.”
As mentioned, fellow Japanese pitchers Tanaka and Darvish also entered MLB with hype and have shown the ability to be successful. Darvish signed with the Texas Rangers prior to 2012 for six years, $60 million (including a $51.7 million posting fee). During his four-year MLB stint, Darvish has accrued a 39-25 record with a 3.27 ERA. He missed all of 2015 due to Tommy John surgery.
Tanaka signed a seven-year, $155 million deal with the Yankees before the 2014 season. In his two-year career, Tanaka has pitched through a torn UCL in his elbow, an injury he suffered in mid-2014. While the injury is usually a precursor to the same Tommy John surgery Darvish underwent, Tanaka has been able to avoid the surgery.
While every pitcher carries injury risk, the last two major pitchers to enter the MLB have suffered elbow injuries, something the Dodgers will likely monitor with Maeda.
With Maeda on board, the Dodgers will potentially have eight starters for five spots. The team already has Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood, Scott Kazmir, Brett Anderson, and the oft-injured Hyun-jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy.
[Image by Koji Watanabe/Getty Images]