Kenta Maeda has been a reliable arm for the Dodgers since he came here from overseas. He gets undervalued consistently and many believe he is just a typical fifth starter — that is not the case. Maeken is a genuinely good pitcher who would be a number three on most clubs, shown by his outstanding 3.15 DRA in Los Angeles.
When the Dodgers signed him in the offseason prior to the 2016 season, nobody knew what the ramifications would be of his largely incentive-based contract. Furthermore, nobody even knew if he would cut it in the big leagues. He definitely has proven to be an above-average major league talent, but has arguably been better as a reliever than a starter. Because of this, the Dodgers have moved him to the bullpen in the preceding months to the postseason in an effort to get him ready for the role in October.
He sees it a different way, and he might not be wrong in his assessment.
According to a recent column by Andy McCullough of The Athletic, Maeda is disgruntled with his role being constantly manipulated in an effort to decrease his pay.
Kenta Maeda is unhappy with his role. The Dodgers tried to renegotiate his contract last winter, but that fizzled. Heading into 2020, Maeda is steadfast about his disinterest in pitching in relief.
The Dodgers counter: You want to start? Pitch better. https://t.co/Vwi2xNlcVZ
— Andy McCullough (@ByMcCullough) November 15, 2019
First of all, this does not appear to be a situation that ends well for Kenta Maeda or any of the parties involved, for that matter. The Dodgers view Kenta Maeda as a fifth starter because that is what he is for their club. If the Dodgers did not have Maeda’s production out of the starting rotation year-round, they really would not lose much as a club in terms of wins and value. They pride themselves on depth and they certainly have it. If the Dodgers lost Maeda over this situation, they would be losing starting pitching depth, sure, but they would also be losing a bonafide lockdown reliever in the postseason. We all know that they have consistently lacked in that department as a club in October.
Maeda Demonstrates Frustration to Team Officials
Kenta Maeda certainly has a reason to be upset. The Dodgers continually cut his paycheck by not allowing him to accrue enough innings to reach incentives in his contract. However, according to McCullough, Maeda has also declined to restructure his contract to fit one that is more based on relief pitching stats. Instead, he stays set in his ways and has practically demanded that he not be utilized as a reliever. This is interesting considering Maeda’s greatest successes as a pitcher in America have come out of the bullpen.
According to Joel Wolfe, Maeda’s agent, Maeda might be getting to a tipping point:
“Kenta wants to make 30 starts, 32 starts during the season. He would prefer not to be constantly shuttled to the bullpen and back. He doesn’t like it.”
Wolfe also expressed some personal distaste for Maeda’s handling, citing his excellent career overseas as a starting pitcher:
It’s been an ongoing discussion. It’s not easy, for either side. But he came over here, after winning two Sawamura Awards being a starter, and he wants to start.”
At the end of the day, Kenta Maeda is the one who put pen to paper and signed the deal with the Dodgers as it is currently constructed. He has no real right to be upset with the incentive-based nature of his contract, but he certainly has a right to be livid with the Dodgers holding him back from reaching those incentives. Still, though, the Dodgers are doing what is best for their club and it is not just good for them financially — it is an excellent move every year for their hopes of delivering a title back to Los Angeles for the first time since 1988.
Andrew Friedman Speaks on Situation
Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman told the media of his perspective on Maeda and how he views the right-hander:
“We think there’s actually more room for him to be even better, which we’re going to work with him on trying to tap into. And if he’s able to take that next step, not only do I see him in the rotation, I can see him potentially starting playoff games, if we’re fortunate enough to make it into October. He has been really good. And we think there’s another gear in there.”
In regards to the comments made by Joel Wolfe, Friedman had a blunt response for Maeda:
You can’t argue with that.
Andrew Friedman also told the media that he engaged his discussions to restructure Maeda’s contract. While Adam Katz of Wasserman declined comment as a representative of Maeda, Friedman stated that “Maeda ended up declining it.”
The real issue here appears to be Kenta Maeda and his pride — not the Dodgers ‘unwillingness’ to negotiate. The Dodgers have tried and Maeda has not budged.
The ball appears to be in Maeda’s court:
“The No. 1 thing for us is to win,” Friedman said. “We feel like it’s important to communicate with our players, and not catch guys off guard. But at the end of the day, I think we have been very consistent with our messaging and ways for certain guys to earn more opportunities.”
Joel Wolfe on Trade Possibility
Joel Wolfe has discussed the possibility of the Dodgers trading Maeda to another club with Kenta Maeda himself, and it might appeal to all parties involved.
“We’ve discussed, ‘Should he be traded?’ and all that. While I think a trade might be appealing — because if he was going to another team where he would get to start for a whole season, that would be appealing to him. But his preference is to remain a Dodger, because he loves the Dodgers and their fans, and just be a full-time starter. He cares more about the role than the contract. But the contract acts somewhat as a limitation because there’s a lot of upside for the Dodgers in limiting his starts.”
How do you feel about the situation? Should the Dodgers trade Kenta Maeda or should they try to work things out with him before the season starts?