Recent years have seen the Dodgers deploy pitcher Kenta Maeda in something of a fluid fashion, with the Japanese import generally moving to late-season bullpen duty after performing for the first few months of each campaign as a starter. While Maeda has generally flourished while working out of the bullpen, Friday’s report from Andy McCullough of The Athletic indicates that the hurler hasn’t been pleased with his tenuous hold on a rotation spot. Maeda’s dissatisfaction with his role has been communicated to the club and team president Andrew Friedman, who has, in return, issued a challenge to the pitcher to find “another gear” in his performance.
While taking this situation at face value might lead some to assume that the two parties are at an impasse, the sides have, judging from McCullough’s report, maintained an amicable relationship and open lines of communication. Maeda’s agent from Wasserman, Joel Wolfe, is quoted as saying that the idea of a trade has been explored by both sides, but such a possibility remains firmly on the backburner as both team and player figure out a way to accommodate a compromise. While there is a contractual component to Maeda’s concerns, Wolfe was quick to point out that the pitcher’s chief frustration is with his usage and not his compensation.
“He cares more about the role than the contract,” Wolfe said. “But the contract acts somewhat as a limitation because there’s a lot of upside for the Dodgers in limiting his starts.” The contract Wolfe refers to is the one Maeda signed with Los Angeles in advance of the 2016 season, when the right-hander secured an eight-year, $28MM on the strength of a sterling NPB track record.
Owing in part to elbow concerns that dogged Maeda at the time of his posting, that deal featured a $10MM in annual incentives related to games started and innings pitched. Obviously, Maeda’s move to the bullpen in 2017, 2018, and 2019 has severely hampered his chances of securing those sizable bonuses–and that’s before accounting for potential moves the club might make this offseason in an effort to improve its staff.
To be clear, the Dodgers already project to enter 2020 with a rather stacked rotation picture. Friedman recently outlined the club’s plan to enter next season with Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Julio Urias, and Maeda in the rotation, with youngsters Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin also on hand as rather formidable options. Rich Hill has clearly stated his desire to return to Dodger nation, and the club has been speculatively connected to virtually every significant free agent starter this side of Gerrit Cole.
Obviously, it may prove tough to find Maeda the 30 to 32 starts he desires with such a surplus in the rotation; further complicating matters is the unique value that the 32-year-old has offered in his recent hybrid role. Maeda’s annual moves to the bullpen have been something of a strategic boon for the club, as he’s posted a 3.19 ERA and 3.13 FIP out of the pen since 2017 (compared to a 4.12 ERA and 3.84 FIP as a starter across that same span).
Maeda has also exhibited undeniable inconsistencies across his splits profile, often struggling against left-handed hitters while absolutely trouncing righties. In 2019, Maeda offered a 5.27 ERA against southpaws while holding a 2.96 ERA mark against same-handed hitters; weighted on-base average (.319 vs. .229) painted a similarly imbalanced picture, supporting the notion that Maeda’s annual transformation into a right-handed setup stopper may actually just be the most prudent course of club action.
While the merits of the club’s historical usage of Maeda may be difficult to argue against, it will still be interesting to monitor whether the pitcher’s sentiments play at least some small role in the Dodgers’ approach to the trade or free agent front. The addition of a top right-handed relief option could conceivably lessen the imperative to again shift Maeda’s role again in 2020, whereas a significant free agent starter signing could represent yet another arm to help usher Maeda toward the bullpen in the season’s final months.
Jorge78 and I are together. Stanley is jealous. That’s the real news.
That’s too bad for Jorge.
Too quote Sgt. Schultz
“I know nothing!”
Ha! I was just joking because it obviously made Stanley mad for some reason. I find it odd that that Stanley is the one saying “who cares?” now when he was the one that immediately got angry and said’ “F You!” before I even mentioned his name. Stanley: nobody cares. I was being facetious. It actually seems like the only one that cares is you. You are the only one that took this seriously at any point and you are definitely the only one that got angry about it. Why is it that you are the one saying “Who cares?” when you are obviously the only one who cares? Maybe you have some things to work out with yourself.
For the record, I have never met Jorge. We just converse on this site occasionally about baseball stuff. I’m sure he’s a good guy. I knew enough do determine he would realize everyone else knew I was being facetious and not get his underwear in a wad. I do find it funny that Stanley vacilates from being super angry to claiming he doesn’t care at all especially when the original comment didn’t have anything to do with him. Figure yourself out Stan. Whatever you are into is okay. No judgement.
Your together with yourself
Maeda has been solid for us, if he wants a trade grant him one
I agree given his age. Aside m o re in detail , its a start for a Mollie or a JD
Who should be in the rotation? Anyone? Buehler?
May should be in the rotation.
The club has already said that Urias is expected to start next season. With Kershaw, Buehler, May and Urias virtual locks, and the obvious need for them to secure a top-end starter, it isn’t any surprise that Maeda is feeling like he might start the season in the bullpen.
He has been relatively useless aa a starter. He was dominant in the postseason as a reliever. If in the bullpen he can be a late inning guy or long reliever or a spot starter. Hes perfect as an opener.
Relative to what? Most teams would be thrilled to have a pitcher as “useless” as Maeda in their 4-5 position in the rotation. His numbers last season were quite similar to Zack Wheeler, and he’s being touted as one of the top free agent pitchers available this offseason.
Spot on. We could get Mookie for him!
he seems to have been valuable for the Dodgers, but he may have more value as a trade piece to a team that wants him as a full-time starter.
ERA is a poor stat when comparing left handed and right handed splits for a reliever. He probably comes in to face a right handed hitter with runners on. If he gives up a hit, a run scores and it doesnt count against him. As the inning goes on and he faces a left hander and gives up a ground out that let’s in a run, it counts against him.
Batting average against would be a better stat.
You can find out how many inherited runs scored against how many didn’t scored
This is career. Not hugely dramatic splits, but enough to be notable.
Restructure the starter incentive contract to a relief contract, if he still wants to be a starter then trade him!
They tried restructuring last winter (according to The Athletic) with Maeda rejecting the offer.
Knowing how the Dodgers FO operates, they probably offered Maeda some sort of insulting contract in an attempt to restructure.
Then they play the “well, WE offered” card.
The Dodgers are operating in bad faith here. It’s pretty well known that the incentives on Maeda’s contract were kind of a show-proof that he was healthy enough to be a starter in the majors, as his injury history in Japan was of chief concern.
Now, they realize that they can save a lot of money, and probably don’t want to pay him the 10M+ they paid him in 2016. So they just manipulate his incentives and put the blame on Maeda as though he can “force” his way into a starter role.
Does anyone really believe Friedman?
Pure ignorance on display.
Yes, and I’m sure the Dodgers forced Maeda’s hand when he signed the contract.
Sure or his medicore play dictates not playing him. If he produced and they werent playing him then thats one thing but post states a 5.20 era on the road, thats putrid. As a dodger fan i have seen him completely implode on the mound, he should be a reliever presently but they continually try the starter card with middling results. Trade him if need be.
Maeda hasn’t been consistently good as a starter, which is why he’s been moved to the bullpen and given them reliability. If he had better results, the Dodgers would leave him in the rotation and pay him the incentive.
The player says it isn’t about the money, it’s about starting. Perhaps he’s lying? Is that your theory?
The incentive part shouldn’t be overlooked. 3 million in California is a nice income, but 5-10 allows him to live a certain way that 3 million may not.
Maeda needs to be able to make it through lineups the third time around in order to be a consistent starter. Staying in the rotation is based on merit, but unfortunately for Maeda, he just is not one of the five best starters the Dodgers will have going into 2020.
i dont know about that. id imagine their top 3 is already set, and of they resign Hill, its probably a battle between him, May, and Gonsolin.
Few pitchers consistently make it through the order the third time around without coughing up runs. It’s just a fact of baseball life. Better to recognize it and protect yourself from damage. Be prepared to bring in the 6th inning guy. The alternative is to bang your head against a wall. Hard. And lose games.
I dont know why people sleep on rotation kenta. I think hes an excellent starting pitcher.
Welp, he could be a cheap addition for the Angels via trade. Not sure what we have that the Dodgers need in return.
I’m curious, how does one calculate ERA vs left or right handed batters?
Trade him over to the angels
I think the ability to perform both roles is valuable. The Dodgers have utilized him well.
He’d be a nice addition here. Ohtani will only pitch once per week and we’ll need a spot starter/long reliever.
Not sure that we have utilized him in that way in contrast to the player Maeda is when he comes in.
Kenta is the one who has to perform when we need him; more than the decisions made.
The one year he made 32 starts was his best year as a starter. I can see moving him to the pen around sept 10 to get ready for the postseason, but to limit him too much is contract manipulation.
I’d like to see him be the possible closer. He just has been dominant in the late innings.
Weird situation. Both sides sort of have a point…..
Maeda is more than good enough to be a #5 starter all season long. But he also needs to understand he has been their best reliever in the last three postseasons. What happens in October does not affect the contract so this should be a non issue. If Dave puts him to start the 8th instead of Kershaw this isn’t even being talked about.
He is good enough but he very well might be squeezed out of the rotation. It seems he’s made it clear it isn’t about the contract, it’s about the usage. He wants to be a starter, and he’s been moved to the bullpen before October for three years in a row now and could easily not have a rotation slot at all next year. So that seems to be the issue.
Depends on what they prioritize in the next few months. If their big move is a bat, Maeda should be a lock for the rotation.
They need to do both but even if they decide not to go after another starter Maeda could be competing for the 5th starting slot with Gonsolin. Just bringing back Ryu would make Maeda the odd man out probably. I’m sure this is his thinking.
I will say he was dominant against the Nats in the bullpen. Haven’t seen him enough as a starter, but he def has a career as alreally any type of reliever he wants, even closer.
Yes amk3510, Dave is too nice. Kershaw did his job getting the last out in the 7th. The 8th inning belonged to Kenta! With Clayton’s woeful stats in October and now past his prime, it was foolish to roll him out to face Rendon. Roberts is one of the few that didn’t see the idiocy of allowing him to face the heart of the order right there.
Just my opinion, but….
Kenta knows how important he is to us.
Whether it be in mid season starts, late season middle relief, to post season situational demands.
This year’s relief role results probably got him to push the thought more.
Why don’t we just compensate him in exchange for the agreement to what his real value is to our team.
Maybe he just needs to hear from Dodger management that he is appreciated more than he currently realizes.
just pay the man….