After the Dodgers failed to re-sign Zack Greinke, critics were quick to say that the Dodgers rotation was in trouble. Many speculated that they would sign one of the many big name free agents such as David Price or Johnny Cueto to fill the void left by Greinke. Instead, the Dodgers found a creative way to solve their rotation problems without handing out a huge paycheck.
In a time where every major contract highly favors the player, usually by way of a player opt-out clause, the Dodgers managed to fill the void left by the departure of Zack Greinke with an extremely team friendly signing. An eight-year contract these days equals $100 million or even $200 million. The contract that the Dodgers gave Kenta Maeda looks like it belongs in the 1990’s.
The Dodgers were able to sign Maeda to a contract based almost entirely on incentives. In fact, Maeda is only guaranteed $25 million over the course of the 8-year deal. After three starts, it appears that Maeda is healthy and the Dodgers could end up paying him much more than that. With incentives, Maeda’s contract has the potential to reach $100 million – and Maeda is certainly off to the right start.
After beginning his major league career with 12 shutout innings over his first two starts, Maeda gave up only one run in his most recent start against the Giants on a solo shot by Joe Panik. That lone run gave Maeda a whopping ERA of 0.47. Maeda will obviously regress toward the mean over the course of the season, but so far, the Dodgers should be excited about what they are seeing.
If Maeda keeps this up, his performance alone would make him more valuable than the pitcher he was brought in to replace. Greinke will be paid over $1 million per start; the maximum that Maeda will get paid per start is less than half that. With Brett Anderson, Hyun-jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy all on the disabled list, Maeda is that much more valuable.
At this rate, Maeda may not only be one of the biggest bargains in baseball, he could even become the front runner for rookie of the year over fellow teammate Corey Seager. Maeda may even give Scott Kazmir a run for his money and turn into a legitimate number two pitcher behind perennial Cy Young candidate Clayton Kershaw.