Last season, Kenta Maeda appeared in 39 games for the Dodgers, starting 20 of those games.
It was mid-August when Dave Roberts announced that Maeda would shift from the rotation to the bullpen. Kenta, along with Alex Wood were shifted to help fill the void left in the bullpen by an unwell Kenley Jansen.
In and of itself, the move made sense on paper, however, it didn’t make sense for Kenta Maeda’s bank account.
For those that may not remember, Maeda was signed during the 2015-2016 off-season to a contract that was heavily incentivized.
Officially, the contract was for 8-years and $25mm guaranteed — a very team friendly deal.
Today the #Dodgers announced the signing of right-handed pitcher Kenta Maeda to an eight-year contract.
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) January 7, 2016
The incentives, however, could bring the contract value up over $100mm, based on one thing… Maeda needs to stay in the rotation.
Starter vs Reliever
Of course, many fans and “experts” alike felt that after his dominant performance out of the bullpen during the 2017 postseason, Kenta was destined to be the setup man of the future.
While 2018 was a bit of a step back, Maeda has proven useful both starting the game, and in relief during his career.
Regular season numbers:
Rework the contract
Chances are that if he isn’t traded this off-season, Kenta will continue to pitch in something of a swing-man role for the Dodgers. So why not compensate the player accordingly for his service?
An easy comparison contract was signed this very off-season by long time Cardinal ace Adam Wainwright.
The contract calls for incentives based on starts and relief appearances:
For games started, he’ll earn $500K upon his fifth start, $1MM upon his tenth and 15th, $1.5MM for his twentieth, and $2MM apiece for his 25th and 30th. Maxing out this run of bonuses would add $8MM of salary.
For relief appearances, Wainwright can earn $500K apiece for every fifth appearance, beginning at #35 and ending at #60. That provides an avenue to $3MM in extra money.
For games finished, Wainwright will receive $500K for the 25th and 30th game in which he records the final out and $600K for every fifth game finished beginning at #35 and ending at #55. If Wainwright serves as the Cards’ closer and meets all of those thresholds, he’d tack on another $4MM, meaning he could in total earn up to an additional $7MM in a relief capacity.
A good starting point to visit for Andrew Friedman, and whoever is left in that front office.
Back in time
A reworked contract was, of course, already brought up soon after the move to the bullpen was made.
Re: Maeda’s contract: The Dodgers have a good relationship with his agents at Wasserman, and it would make sense for both sides to reconfigure the language in his contract to include incentives for relief. Would have to pass muster with MLBPA, but benefits both parties.
— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughTimes) August 12, 2018
I even had a radical idea early last season.
Had lunch with @realFRG & wanted to see what you thought:
Since Maeda has incentives based on starts, why couldn’t we use him like Romo in Tampa to start more games for a few innings to give our real starter an opportunity to get to Kenley? #JustaStarterConversation
— Dodgers Nation (@DodgersNation) May 23, 2018
These conversations have been happening off and on for some time now.
For a little context, here’s a Tweet from our friend Tim Rogers about Kenta from 2017:
Maeda is awesome in the pen. Hope they fix his contract bonuses a bit so he can start and relieve and get paid.
— Tim Rogers (SD Dodger) (@SDDodger) October 10, 2017
Plain and simple, the contract isn’t fair for Kenta, and it needs to be discussed before next season begins.
Make it happen, Dodgers.
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