After losing Zack Greinke via free agency, the Los Angeles Dodgers made a move to bolster their pitching staff, as they agreed to a deal with Japanese starting pitcher Kenta Maeda.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported the deal is worth $25 million with lots of performance incentives. Sherman reported that the Dodgers saw lots of physical red flags, but also noted Maeda is due to make roughly $13 million per year if he stays healthy.
It's been a busy time for L.A., which also agreed to a three-year deal with lefty Scott Kazmir on last week. Kazmir and Maeda will bolster a talented rotation led by Clayton Kershaw.
Maeda's path to Major League Baseball has been complicated, as is often the case with Japanese players under contract to a team. Joey Nowak of MLB.com reported on Dec. 9 he was going to be posted by the Hiroshima Carp.
After Maeda was posted, Baseball America's Ben Badler tweeted his expectation was that the Carp were going to be seeking the maximum $20 million posting fee to release him. That likely changed Maeda's market, as Tom Singer of MLB.com pointed out at least one team (Arizona) had interest before learning of the Carp's demands.
Maeda is an unusual starting pitcher to project in MLB because he's short at 6'0" and rail-thin at 154 pounds. If you are curious as to why Maeda's weight is such a big talking point, let Phil Rogers of MLB.com explain it with a few examples.
"Here's a list of guys 166 pounds or less who pitched in the majors last season: Shane Robinson, Sam Freeman, Raudel Lazo, Everett Teaford, Zach Davies, Jesse Chavez and Severino Gonzalez," Rogers wrote.
Injuries and durability haven't been a concern for Maeda in Japan, as he's racked up 1,509.2 innings since 2008. But leagues in that country also use a six-man rotation.
Maeda is a slightly-built 6 feet, 160 pounds and throws around 87-93 mph with good sink and run, though he doesn't get great angle on his fastball. He's a good athlete, which helps him repeat his delivery and thrive when his command, which can be plus at times, is on point. Maeda doesn't have one knockout secondary pitch, but he has a solid-average slider and mixes in a curveball and a changeup as well.
Badler also spoke to an international scouting director who views Maeda as a "fourth starter at the big league level" because his game is built more on command and needing to hit spots than a power arsenal.
Despite all of these concerns, the 27-year-old now has the opportunity to work with an MLB coaching staff and can add bulk to his frame that could help him add velocity to his arsenal.
Investing in pitchers is always risky, but Maeda is one worth investing in. His upside is greater than any starter who was left on the market.
Stats and weight per Baseball-Reference.com.
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