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Revisiting the Kenta Maeda Trade a Year Later


It was exactly one year ago today that the Twins agreed to trade Brusdar Graterol to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Kenta Maeda. Let's take a look back at the last season for both players to deem how each team fared in the deal.After all the drama settled, and the Red Sox were left out of the equation, the Twins and Dodgers agreed to the following deal:

Download attachment: Screen Shot 2021-02-08 at 9.18.16 PM.png

Camargo (21-years old) was signed by the Dodgers as an international free agent in 2015. In 665 minor league at-bats he has a .671 OPS with a strikeout rate of almost 29%, and has played 90-percent of his innings at catcher between rookie ball and lo-A. Raley (26-years old), who was dealt to the Twins as part of the Dozier trade in 2018, sports a .833 OPS but is only slightly less prone to strikeouts at about 26-percent of the time in 1,347 at-bats climbing as high as AAA in 2019. Per the 2020 MLB prospect rankings, neither player is in the top 30 of their respective clubs rankings. Being that these two players are at different points in their careers it’s too early to say one has that one team got the better end of this part of the deal, which can be sad about the next part of the deal.

 

The Twins received the competitive balance pick for being “one of the 10 smallest markets or 10 smallest revenue pools” in baseball in 2019, which is not to be confused with a compensation pick which is given when a free-agent-to-be rejects a qualifying offer. Beeter was the 51st ranked draftee and profiled as someone who throws hard and has “stuff” that, if it can be controlled, could make for a solid prospect moving forward. That said, his track record is shaky and he’s already had two elbow surgeries so they drafted him solely based on the potential of “fixing” him. Obviously, it’s too early to tell how this pans out and who knows who the Twins would have grabbed here. I’ll take the $10MM and be happy with how the premier part of the deal has panned out so far.

 

The headliners of this deal were clearly Maeda and Graterol in what could essentially become a one-for-one swap if none of the aforementioned pieces amount to anything more than replacement level players. Although it’s hard to predict the overall impact this trade will have in the years to come, I think we can anoint a “winner” of the trade a year later after reflecting on the years each player and team had.

 

Maeda Makes a Case for the Cy Young Award

Maeda’s career with the Dodgers was always a little on the fritz as he would bounce back and forth between a starter and reliever despite having a preference for being a part of the rotation. Although he did well in both roles, I think 2020 showed that knowing he was going to be a starter from day one allowed him to settle in and excel on the mound. He posted career best numbers across the board as a starter and was rewarded earning 2nd place in Cy Young voting behind the unanimous selection of Shane Bieber. His Savant profile, shown below, proves that 2020 was not a total surprise to those reading more than box scores and that it isn’t far fetched for him to post similar numbers moving forward.

Download attachment: Maeda Savant 16 - 20.gif

Maeda provided the Twins with their first true ace dating back to when Johan Santana was with the club and accrued 2.1 fWAR which would extrapolate to about 6.3 over an entire season of work. In addition, he provided the Twins with the consistency from the top spot in the rotation that hasn’t been provided by the likes of Jake Odorizzi and Jose Berrios over the last few years. With three years left on baseball's most team-friendly contract, it’s almost a guarantee he will exceed the value of his contract and provide the Twins with the consistent starter they’ve been missing for over a decade.

 

Graterol Effective but Not Dominant

We knew that Graterol was a fireballer as he finished in the 100th percentile for fastball (Savant actually labels it a sinker) velocity, but we weren’t sure whether he’d stick as a starter or reliever. Like the Twins with Maeda, the Dodgers gave Graterol a solid role from day one and he was able to slide into a middle inning role rather nicely. Ultimately, he ended the year accruing 0.3 fWAR in 23.1 innings of work which would extrapolate to about 1.0 if he pitched over an entire season of work. What’s odd about Graterol is, despite being a power pitcher, he doesn’t generate many whiffs and opposing hitters quality of contact against his fastball/sinker is actually fairly solid (xwOBA of .295) compared to some of the games top relievers. That said, throwing his fastball/sinker high to get ahead in the count sets up for an effective slider low to finish off the batter, where they sport an xwOBA of 0.124.

Download attachment: Screen Shot 2021-02-08 at 2.53.39 PM.png

At just 22-years old and able to consistently pump triple digits, it’s crazy to think that Graterol cannot improve on his whiff and quality of contact numbers and become one of the game's best relievers. Based on his Savant profile, it may just be a matter of locating that fastball over the outer third of the plate rather than the middle third. He still has four years of team control left in an organization that has a recent history of developing or reinventing players into great relievers, and has the opportunity to make a name for himself on the baseball's biggest stage as the Dodgers appear to be contenders for years to come.

 

And the Winner Is…

In the age of the dominant bullpen, a true number one still reigns supreme. There’s a reason why Gerrit Cole and Trever Bauer have an AAV of $36MM and $34MM, respectively, while Liam Hendriks is at “just” $18MM. That’s not to say that Maeda is or will ever be on the same level of Cole and Bauer, but that IS to say that even at Graterol’s best with the Dodgers he will not reach the value of Maeda with the Twins. This is a rare deal where both sides are able to immediately benefit from the trade, but I’d take the Twins side of the trade every time. We’ll revisit this deal in three years when Maeda’s tenure as a Twin may be over and we have a better picture of what Graterol will become (he’ll still only be 25!!!), but as of right now the Twins are the winners of this trade.

 

How do you rate the trade a year later? Hypothetically, if Graterol becomes an elite reliever, who wins the trade in your eyes?

 

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The notion of one team “winning” a trade and the other “losing” a trade is a false dichotomy. In baseball trades, as in life, the goal in negotiation ought to be for both sides to “win.”

 

In this case, I think the Twins “won” in that they fulfilled a need in having a top-notch starter in place. The Dodgers didn’t need that particular piece, but wanted more prospects for the future. So far, it appears that he is developing into what they were looking for, so they may have “won” as well. 

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From what I read I believe the knock on Maeda is that he became less effective as the season wore on, thus the reliever role.  It isn't often that a season is only going to be 60 games so I am not sure what to think just yet.  

 

Since we don't have a huge budget having a top of the rotation starter for the money he makes might be the biggest benefit the Twins got in the deal.  It is incredibly hard to find a pitcher of his quality for the price commanded for the years of control.

 

I don't see Graterol getting worse unless he ends up injured in a significant way so it is not like the Dodgers got robbed but trading a starter for a reliever usually makes it hard to win a trade.  I think if Graterol reaches elite status as a reliever and the second round pick works out then the trade is closer.

 

I think you need to look at this trade in greater context though.  The Dodgers weren't concerned about "winning" this trade.  They had guys to fill his spot and needed to put Price on the roster to help facilitate the Betts trade.  If you add that in then the Dodgers came out just fine by getting one of the best players in baseball.  I also wouldn't discount the second round pick.  The Dodgers have been pretty darn good at identifying arms that can transition to MLB.  I am sure they did their due diligence on the guys arm and they wouldn't have picked him in the second round if they didn't think he would make it.

 

Friedman rarely loses a trade and I wouldn't bet against him on this one either, but even if he does lose this trade in the end he came out ahead with Betts and got something for a guy he felt they didn't have room for anyway.  In essence from his perspective he has already won the trade as with the moves he made they won a World Series but yes in a vacuum this trade looks like a good one for Minnesota as well.

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Win win for both sides. Twins finally get a reliable rotation arm for a reasonable price. The Dodgers obviously didn't miss a beat losing Maeda. If anything, this is a good example to show that trading top prospects does end up with positive results from time to time. Maybe we should explore that option more frequently while we're in this competitive window...

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Early results you can say Twins win, but Dodgers gave up an extra starter they were barely using for a piece they needed.  If you look just at numbers Twins win, but do not feel Dodgers really lost either. 

 

Time will tell in long run, but think it will be a win win for both clubs.  

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Will agree with Indiana and others above who see this trade as a win-win. The Twins got a front of the rotation starting pitcher by giving up an excellent bullpen prospect. That has to be considered a win for the Twins. When you add the contract and $10M, it is a huge win for a mid-market team.

 

As for the Dodgers, they didn't need Maeda as a starter and may have improved their bullpen over the next couple years. Add in the second round pick and they can also consider this a win. Isn't it a good thing when both teams can sit back and feel good about a trade a year later?

 

Now, lets see our FO put together something similar over the next few weeks to bring in a solid young starter to add more depth to this rotation.

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Most definitely a win/ win/ win. Dodgers wanted Mookie Betts, unload discontented Maeda and win the World Series. They done all of the above and got Graterol out of the deal. I'd say it was because of Maeda that we came out on top of the division. But to many, for the Twins to have a successful season they needed to win a PS serie or at least a game. In this aspect the Twins fell short.
Look at last year it was a win/ win. Dodgers gave up a pretty good reliever & got one back w/ a future. We got a runner up CY winner so we came out ahead.
Everything worked out perfect for Maeda in 2020. #1 short season- he was not drained. #2- the hitters weren't used to his different delivery. #3- very weak AL and NL Central divisions, the CY winners and the runners up in both AL and NL were from the central divisions. #4- covid, this pandemic seemed affected many hitters but not Maeda. #5- favor of FO, making sure he didn't face the line up more than 3x, have his allotted rest between starts and Wes Johnson expertise. #6 (this should be #1) He was highly motivated to prove himself.
Being a normal year and hitters more familiar w/ him, he'll have some regression, he's not an ace as some profess. He'll continue to be a good pitcher.
Graterol, has an electric fastball but he could locate it higher. He needs a quality 3rd pitch to become an awesome starter. Dodgers have given him some opportunity to start but they aren't in a hurry to develop him.
Dodgers, even with Maeda's new found success, would not want to take back this trade. I like Maeda but I was disappointed the FO traded away Graterol. Dodgers were motivated to trade Maeda, at the end they would've accepted a couple of bats instead.

We came out ahead in round 1, next 2 rounds pretty even , round 4+ we lose

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This remains to be seen.

 

The Twins got a competent starter, but at the end of day what did it accomplish?

 

It didn’t draw any additional revenue, because attendance was a non-factor. He accumulated 1.5 WAR in a shortened season. He pitched a gem in the playoffs, but Baldelli inexplicably pulled him with a 2 hitter after 5 innings. They then lost the game and series.

 

Meanwhile, Graterol gave the Dodgers numerous good innings during the regular season. Had 4 scoreless playoff appearances, including a World Series appearance, and had an overall ERA around 3.00 in the playoffs. The Dodgers went on the win the World Series.

 

The Dodgers are loaded with starters and don’t miss Maeda in the slightest. The Twins, again, got a good starter but are filling bullpen holes with the skeletal remains of Hansel Robles and off the waiver wire.

 

Turned out well for the Twins, although in sort of a meaningless way to this point. It could’ve possibly turned out much better but for Baldelli over thinking things. I think it’s clear which side of this equation everyone would rather be on.

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This trade is a win win in terms of what each club accomplished.  I think in terms of value in a vacuum the Twins come out on top.  But for the Dodgers the value comes from getting rid of a potential headache/ nightmare.  Having an SP from overseas not happy in LA could make it harder to recruit more SP or players from overseas if they did not handle it well.  Also benefiting the Twins is the success and happiness that Maeda takes back to Japan and tells Japanese players that Minnesota is a good place to play.  

 

While Maeda has struggled pitching further down the season, I think he was still a solid 5 inning starter which is all Falvey and company ask for.  So lets see how this season plays out and I am glad to have Maeda on our team.  Last point on Maeda, even if he struggles down the stretch, a SP with an ERA around 4.00 with 170 innings pitched is worth far more than his contract.  

 

As far as Graterol is concerned, I can see him becoming an elite reliever.  he has the fast ball and I think his slider is good too.  he just didn't have a third pitch if I remember correctly so starting wasn't a real option without that.  

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This remains to be seen.

The Twins got a competent starter, but at the end of day what did it accomplish?

It didn’t draw any additional revenue, because attendance was a non-factor. He accumulated 1.5 WAR in a shortened season. He pitched a gem in the playoffs, but Baldelli inexplicably pulled him with a 2 hitter after 5 innings. They then lost the game and series.

Meanwhile, Graterol gave the Dodgers numerous good innings during the regular season. Had 4 scoreless playoff appearances, including a World Series appearance, and had an overall ERA around 3.00 in the playoffs. The Dodgers went on the win the World Series.

The Dodgers are loaded with starters and don’t miss Maeda in the slightest. The Twins, again, got a good starter but are filling bullpen holes with the skeletal remains of Hansel Robles and off the waiver wire.

Turned out well for the Twins, although in sort of a meaningless way to this point. It could’ve possibly turned out much better but for Baldelli over thinking things. I think it’s clear which side of this equation everyone would rather be on.

Should we just not try to trade for a good veteran on an extremely team-friendly deal? When you're taking such a macro-level approach, it's hard to really evaluate the trade. I mean, we couldn't win a playoff game this year, so I guess all the moves we made were pointless, then!

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Maeda's contract is so good that you almost don't want to touch it, but just for the sake of argument what might be some options for a contract revision, that leave both sides happy.

 

Current Contract:

2021-2023

Base Salary - $3M

$250k for each 10 inning threshold from 90ip-200ip

$1M for each of 15GS and 20GS

$1.5M for each of 25GS, 30GS, and 32GS

Opening day Roster Bonus of $150k

 

What the Twins might want: Additional Years, Cost certainty
What Maeda might want: Guaranteed Money

 

If we look at a good year for Kenta, let's call it 30GS and 170ip. That would be $10.4M.

With any sort of significant time missed, it's pretty easy for his salary to drop to $5M. And with a season ending injury, all he's really guaranteed is $3M

 

The next three years are his age 33,34,and 35 season. So, it's not like you're dying to add on years. But what about something like: 

4yr/32M + Team Option for $8M in year 5?

 

Who says no to that?

 

 

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From what I read I believe the knock on Maeda is that he became less effective as the season wore on, thus the reliever role.  It isn't often that a season is only going to be 60 games so I am not sure what to think just yet.  

 

Kenta Maeda's career splits by month:

 

April/March: BA .259 OBP .315 SLG .429 OPS .744 
May:             BA. 197 OBP .266 SLG .342 OPS .608 
June:            BA. 204 OBP .282 SLG .311 OPS .592 

July:             BA. 237 OBP .290 SLG .421 OPS .711 
August:        BA. 204 OBP .259 SLG .373 OPS .632 
Sept/Oct:     BA .224 OBP .276 SLG .382 OPS .659 

 

This is a guy who "gets worn down"? I think the reality is the Dodgers dumped him into the 'pen because a) he was effective there and they needed the help, B) they had more effective starters than they had relief help, and c) they wanted to dodge some of the incentives due in his contract. 

 

It's a fine trade for both teams. the Twins needed starting pitching and got it, They got a contract that is team-friendly, even when paying out all the incentives. The Dodgers wanted bullpen help and got a guy with a big arm under team control. both players performed well in their roles in the first season after the deal

 

Trades aren't a zero-sum game, and having some deals where it works out fine for both clubs probably makes it easier to deal in the future,

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Maeda's contract is so good that you almost don't want to touch it, but just for the sake of argument what might be some options for a contract revision, that leave both sides happy.

 

Current Contract:

2021-2023

Base Salary - $3M

$250k for each 10 inning threshold from 90ip-200ip

$1M for each of 15GS and 20GS

$1.5M for each of 25GS, 30GS, and 32GS

Opening day Roster Bonus of $150k

 

What the Twins might want: Additional Years, Cost certainty
What Maeda might want: Guaranteed Money

 

If we look at a good year for Kenta, let's call it 30GS and 170ip. That would be $10.4M.

With any sort of significant time missed, it's pretty easy for his salary to drop to $5M. And with a season ending injury, all he's really guaranteed is $3M

 

The next three years are his age 33,34,and 35 season. So, it's not like you're dying to add on years. But what about something like: 

4yr/32M + Team Option for $8M in year 5?

 

Who says no to that?

Hard pass. His contract is what made him so attractive in the first place. I thought we learned our lesson after tearing up Phil Hughes' team favorable contract for his albatross contract. 

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