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Comparing Kenta Maeda to the Free Agent Starters

The Twins went into the offseason looking to acquire a solid starting pitcher. They missed out on the free agents but were able to swing a trade for Kenta Maeda. Is he as good as the Wheeler, Bumgarner, Ryu group?
Image courtesy of © Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
When Maeda was acquired there were a lot of rumblings about him being just above average and not the “impact” guy the Twins needed. This was coming and is still coming from the same group that wanted Bumgarner to be that savior for the rotation. I personally liked Wheeler and Ryu a lot so it is interesting where Maeda ranks among these three.

2019 statistics:
  • Kenta Maeda: 4.04 ERA, 3.95 FIP, 1.07 WHIP, 6.7 H/9, 3.0 BB/9, 9.9 K/9
  • Zack Wheeler: 3.96 ERA, 3.48 FIP, 1.26 WHIP, 9.0 H/9, 2.3 BB/9, 9.0 K/9
  • Hyun-Jin Ryu: 2.32 ERA, 3.10 FIP, 1.01 WHIP, 7.9 H/9, 1.2 BB/9, 8.0 K/9
  • Madison Bumgarner: 3.90 ERA, 3.90 FIP, 1.13 WHIP, 8.3 H/9, 1.9 BB/9, 8.8 K/9
Ryu was statistically the best pitcher of the four with Wheeler, Bumgarner, and Maeda all very close to each other. Now when you bring up the price tag for each pitcher Maeda is much cheaper than the rest, allowing the Twins to make other moves.
  • Wheeler: $21.5 million
  • Bumgarner: $17 million
  • Ryu: $20 million
  • Maeda: Really weird contract but probably around $11 million
You could argue that Maeda is at the top of the list or at the bottom, but I think he, Wheeler, and Ryu are extremely close in what they will give next season. Bumgarner is going to fall off a cliff and will be the worst of the four. Another thing about Maeda is that he allowed the Twins to go get someone like Josh Donaldson because of his cheap price. If the Twins had landed Wheeler for the contract he signed, Josh Donaldson would not have ended up in Minnesota. The impact of Maeda/Donaldson is above the impact of Wheeler or Ryu/Moreland or someone like him.

I may be drinking the Twins Kool-aid a bit here, but I think landing Maeda was the best case scenario when you take into account price, statistics, future value, and a guy named Josh Donaldson. He may not be the best pitcher, but he is very close to them all and the roster/financial impact is the key to why I would take Maeda.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments!

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34 Comments

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Aerodeliria
Feb 26 2020 09:16 PM

From my point-of-view, I am very happy to have Mr. Front-field (meaning of his Chinese characters) as they will most certainly televise some of his games here, and if we ever get a Tanaka (Mr. Field-middle) vs. Maeda match-up, it will be the game of the year here.

    • woolywoolhouse, JoshDungan1, DannySD and 1 other like this

I'd rate Ryu as being a clear tier up from Maeda and Wheeler a half a tier better with significantly more upside (with Bumgarner being roughly the same). As a full time starter in a healthy season Maeda can make around $13M a year so the Twins are saving $8-10M a year, but his contract incentives provide some really nice insurance for injuries or a drop off in production. Taking everything into account I'd probably still prefer Ryu or Wheeler since at this point the Twins biggest need is top end starting pitching, but to fill innings it's hard to argue that Maeda provides great value.

The contract puts Maeda over the top.
    • Blake, nicksaviking, tarheeltwinsfan and 3 others like this

I think the Twins got a solid starter in Maeda for a reasonable contract. For years, I was hoping that Kyle Gibson would live up to his first round status so I'm ok with him going to Texas.As far as I have researched, Maeda doesn't throw hard, but he misses alot of bats.With our upgraded infield and the speed in our outfield, that should be a huge plus. 

    • tarheeltwinsfan, JoshDungan1 and howieramone2 like this

 

From my point-of-view, I am very happy to have Mr. Front-field (meaning of his Chinese characters) as they will most certainly televise some of his games here, and if we ever get a Tanaka (Mr. Field-middle) vs. Maeda match-up, it will be the game of the year here.

Chinese characters?

 

Is that what they're calling it in Japan these days? ;)

    • Dantes929, bighat, chinmusic and 1 other like this

All things considered, I think Maeda is a good pickup. Is he the magical unicorn fairy "ace" we've all been searching for all these years in MN?... No, but he doesn't have to be. 

 

He just needs to be able to keep our Twins in the game. 

    • Riverbrian and howieramone2 like this
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stringer bell
Feb 26 2020 09:49 PM

From a payroll standpoint, Maeda ranks as well as any of those considered.Let's not neglect to mention that the "cost" of his acquisition also included Brusdar Graterol.

    • Dantes929, blindeke, tarheeltwinsfan and 3 others like this
Don't forget that .535 OPS against righties for Maeda. That should translate to the Central and AL in general super well. I see red when people say we should have signed Bumgarner instead of trading for Maeda, so thank you very much for this Cooper.
    • DocBauer, howieramone2, Melissa and 1 other like this

I would also have put Ryu at the top.I still don't get the feeding frenzy over Wheeler.Nice pitcher that I would like to have but at the price for that length? Honestly, if he had come through the system for the Twins, fans here would be calling him a mid rotation guy. If the price were equal I would give him the edge over Maeda and Bum but the price isn't anywhere near equal though it is a point well taken that the jury is out on the price of Graterol.

    • 70charger likes this
I like Maeda, but I would prefer to have Ryu, Graterol, and Raley. Imagine Ryu starting against the Yankees, then bringing in Graterol. That's a playoff team could match up with anyone.
    • Dantes929, blindeke, jud6312 and 1 other like this
I agree with this article 100%
    • TL and DocBauer like this

 

I like Maeda, but I would prefer to have Ryu, Graterol, and Raley. Imagine Ryu starting against the Yankees, then bringing in Graterol. That's a playoff team could match up with anyone.

From a sheer numbers standpoint, Maeda is a much better matchup if you're looking at facing off against the Yankees or Astros. His right handed splits would probably fare better than Ryu's style of left handed pitching. It's a small sample size but of 8 Yankee hitters Ryu has faced in his career, 4 of them have an OPS over 1000 against him.

 

As for Graterol, there's so much depth in the bullpen that it's an easy move to make to cash in on the height of his value for starting pitching which is a bigger need. 

 

Raley never really had any path to playing time. His role was probably always based around being traded.

    • Brock Beauchamp, howieramone2 and MN_ExPat like this
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twinsfanstreif
Feb 27 2020 07:46 AM

"Another thing about Maeda is that he allowed the Twins to go get someone like Josh Donaldson because of his cheap price. If the Twins had landed Wheeler for the contract he signed, Josh Donaldson would not have ended up in Minnesota. The impact of Maeda/Donaldson is above the impact of Wheeler or Ryu/Moreland or someone like him."

 

This is key right here. If we're purely doing a bWAR comparison Maeda + Donaldson = 7.4 bWAR where a Wheeler + Moreland combo = 4.8 bWAR which is pretty significant and also doesn't account for Sano's poor defense at 3rd still being a factor (coupled with Moreland's poor 1B defense btw). I think we did pretty well in this context, even adding the fact that we lost Graterol for it

    • Riverbrian, woolywoolhouse, DocBauer and 6 others like this
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howieramone2
Feb 27 2020 08:27 AM
Great move by our favorite team. Ryu is the Titanic.
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Doctor Gast
Feb 27 2020 08:36 AM

I always was pushing for trade over FA especially when we have a log jam at corner outfield & potential 40 man dilemma.Maeda isn`t my 1st choice but he`s a polished pitcher who we can`t depend on him to constantly pitch 7 innings per game. We can limit his pitch count per game but yet try to get him in the rotation more often. I`m not against Maeda but I didn`t like branding Graterol BP & then trading him for Maeda.

Maeda contract is a more economical than any FA but he wasn`t cheap

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TwinsFan2005
Feb 27 2020 08:40 AM

Good stuff but when comparing Maeda/Donaldson to us getting Ryu/Moreland we also would still have Graterol. And Ryu and Moreland would have been a bit cheaper

    • jrod23 and bighat like this

Ryu has the best numbers, but the highest risk of injury. Wheeler has the best upside and projectable future, but it's still a projection (and he's had injuries too) Bumgarner has the track record & big game performance, with likely age-related dropoff pending. Maeda probably has the best balance between performance and risk?

 

In terms of upside, I'd rank them like this: 1. Ryu, 2. Wheeler, 3. Maeda, 4. Bumgarner

In terms of risk, I'd rank them: 1. Maeda, 2. Wheeler, 3. Bumgarner, 4. Ryu

 

 

    • DocBauer likes this

PECOTA 2020 SP Ranks

 

Maeda: 14th

Bugmarner: 16th

Ryu: 33rd

Wheeler: 35th

 

Just sayin

    • Dantes929, blindeke, howieramone2 and 1 other like this
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puckstopper1
Feb 27 2020 10:53 AM

 

I like Maeda, but I would prefer to have Ryu, Graterol, and Raley. 

 

Jiminy - in reality it is Maeda + Donaldson vs Ryu, Graterol and Raley.  

 

IMO that tips the balance towards what the Twins actually did.

    • blindeke and howieramone2 like this
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twinsfanstreif
Feb 27 2020 10:58 AM

 

Good stuff but when comparing Maeda/Donaldson to us getting Ryu/Moreland we also would still have Graterol. And Ryu and Moreland would have been a bit cheaper

I think you're under estimating Donaldson's impact. The gap between Donaldson and Moreland is MASSIVE, especially considering defensive value. Conversely, the gap between Ryu and Maeda is much less and that trade off for me is worth sacrificing Graterol's upside (which I don't believe to be all that high)

    • howieramone2 likes this

 

PECOTA 2020 SP Ranks

 

Maeda: 14th

Bugmarner: 16th

Ryu: 33rd

Wheeler: 35th

 

Just sayin

Where is PECOTA on Berrios and Odo?

 

"Bumgarner is going to fall off a cliff..."

 

What exactly in Bumgarner's 2019 performance/numbers are you seeing that suggests this...heading into his age 30 season? Or is it just a feeling you have? Decent arguments are out there for Maeda instead of Bumgarner, both performance-wise and certainly contract-wise. But falling off a cliff?

 

"Another thing about Maeda is that he allowed the Twins to go get someone like Josh Donaldson because of his cheap price. If the Twins had landed Wheeler for the contract he signed, Josh Donaldson would not have ended up in Minnesota. The impact of Maeda/Donaldson is above the impact of Wheeler or Ryu/Moreland or someone like him."

 

This is key right here. If we're purely doing a bWAR comparison Maeda + Donaldson = 7.4 bWAR where a Wheeler + Moreland combo = 4.8 bWAR which is pretty significant and also doesn't account for Sano's poor defense at 3rd still being a factor (coupled with Moreland's poor 1B defense btw). I think we did pretty well in this context, even adding the fact that we lost Graterol for it

 

This is absolutely right. 

 

We have budget limitations. Every team has budget limitations, Some are just set higher than others. 

 

Maeda's contract allows for Maeda plus another player. 

 

Ryu, Wheeler, Bumgarner... those contracts restrict the possibility of additional expenditure. 

 

Starting pitching is expensive... this contract is rare. 

 

The contract has to be factored into any comparison amongst the 4 and Maeda wins after you do that because he allows for a Donaldson signing. 

 

Yeah... you do have to factor Graterol into the price but that's what contending teams do. The reality is... they traded 6 years of a reliever who might throw 60 IP a season for 4 years of a starter who might throw 180 innings a season. If that's how it works without injury... that's 720 innings for 360 innings. No matter how much any of us love Graterol... Maeda is going to be more valuable. 

 

Unless of course... Maeda goes all Logan Morrison on us.:)

 

    • DocBauer and Tomj14 like this

 

"Bumgarner is going to fall off a cliff..."

 

What exactly in Bumgarner's 2019 performance/numbers are you seeing that suggests this...heading into his age 30 season? Or is it just a feeling you have? Decent arguments are out there for Maeda instead of Bumgarner, both performance-wise and certainly contract-wise. But falling off a cliff?

MadBum was holding onto Oracle Park for dear life. That might be the number one pitcher's park in all of baseball, and MadBum had a 2.93 ERA at home. On the road? 5.29 ERA. Maeda had some favorable home/road splits as well, but he at least matches up for the Twins a bit better because of his effectiveness on righties which is most of the American league.

 

I'd guess MadBum sees some tough effects of pitching in SF 1-2 times per year as opposed to 12-15.

End of the day I get my choice for free? I take Wheeler and his velocity and the hope he takes another step forward. That's why he got the offers he did. That's not to knock him. The Twins, myself, majority of people here wanted him. But he is good with hope attached.

I was never really in on Ryu. Just hard for me to be in on a guy, even a talented guy, who I just have no clue if he's going to be available, for how long, etc.

I liked Bumgarner as I don't agree he will just "fall off a cliff". I like his success, knowledge and bulldog mentality and thought he would be a solid second choice behind Wheeler.

Now, Maeda vs any one of these guys? I'd probably still take Wheeler, straight up, with the hoped for upside. But I am not disappointed in Maeda, like the trade, and it turns out even better when you factor in Donaldson and the Maeda $ numbers.

Man, it's almost like our FO is smart or something.
    • jrod23, MN_ExPat and Aichiman like this