The best reliever for the Dodgers from this past postseason is a starting pitcher by trade — no I am not talking about Clayton Kershaw here. Kenta Maeda tossed 4.2 scoreless innings in LA’s NLDS loss. He added 7 strikeouts and walked none… and will be back in the rotation in 2020, per Andrew Friedman.
The President of Baseball Operations was asked about Kenta’s role for next season and confirmed that he expects the right hander to take the ball in a starting capacity.
My full expectation is that he will be back and pitching every fifth day and be a big part of what we do next year.
There was something of a read between the lines pause before his assertion that Maeda will return to the club for his fifth season, perhaps hinting at the right hander being a trade chip, but that’s likely just this writer’s mind running a little wild.
Nevertheless, Maeda is expect to join Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw in the rotation, along with some mix of Dustin May, Julio Urias, Tony Gonsolin, and Ross Stripling among others. Of course Hyun-Jin Ryu — who’s agent is Scott Boras — and Rich Hill will officially be free agents upon the completion of the World Series.
Moreover, there is expectation that Los Angeles could make a run at free agent-to-be Gerrit Cole from the Houston Astros.
Now, when asked how Maeda could finally stick in the rotation for the entire season, Andrew Friedman was to the point in his response.
Talking to Kenta this September — from our viewpoint, everything we do is a meritocracy. There will definitely be the possibility for Kenta to earn a starting role for longer, and potentially into October, and I think a lot of that gets to just commanding the baseball a little bit better against left handed hitters, and we had that conversation about what that could mean.
We’d love for him to continue to take his game to another level, which we think he’s capable of… and take the ball for us every fifth day and pitch for us in October.
No doubt one of Maeda’s greater weaknesses since joining the Dodgers in 2016 has been his work against lefty batters. He holds a career batting average split of .199 vs RHBs against .257 vs LHBs. More importantly, left handed batters have slugged nearly .100 points higher against the 31 year old.
With so many starting arms on the club, chances are that Friedman could eat his words early on Kenta the starter. As it stands, if the club doesn’t dive into the free agent market, the argument could be made that Maeda is the sixth or seventh best starter on the depth chart.
More likely, with the emergence of rookie arms capable of starting, Maeda could be suiting up for another club in 2020.