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Trade Retrospective: Which Team Won the Kenta Maeda Trade?


Kenta Maeda is going under the knife today after a somewhat disappointing 2021 season. The extent of the injury will be known when the surgery is complete. (Editor's Update: Maeda had Tommy John surgery on Wednesday.) So, two seasons after the deal, can we answer yet which team won the Kenta Maeda trade?

Minnesota had many reasons to be interested in trading for Kenta Maeda before the 2020 season. He had shown positive signs during his time in Los Angeles, and the Dodgers had an influx of starting pitching. He pitched over 125 innings in each of his first four big-league seasons, but the team tended to move him to a bullpen role as the season came to a close.

Injury concerns might have been one of the reasons the Dodgers tried to limit Maeda’s innings. (At least that sounds better than trying to limit how much they had to pay him.) When he initially signed from Japan, his physical exam revealed “irregularities” in his right elbow. At the time, MLB.com said, “the strong suspicion is that he will need Tommy John reconstruction at some point.”

This prognosis resulted in a very team-friendly eight-year contract which guaranteed Maeda a minimum of $25 million with a chance to be worth over $106 million. This gave the Dodgers some wiggle room if Maeda did go under the knife. He pitched over 600 innings for the Dodgers, and they went on multiple World Series runs, and his elbow wasn’t an issue.

Team-controlled starting pitching is one of baseball’s most valuable assets, so Maeda was an easy target for the Twins. His team-friendly deal was a positive, and he hadn’t shown any injury concerns up to this point. Any team trading for a player gets access to their medical records, so there must not have been anything out of the ordinary regarding Maeda’s physical. Plus, the Twins saw their winning window was open, and Maeda helped make the team better.

Maeda provided Minnesota with everything they wanted and more during his first season with the club. He finished runner-up for the Cy Young Award after a dominating season where he posted a 2.70 ERA and an MLB-leading 0.75 WHIP. He struck out 80 batters in 66 2/3 innings while only issuing ten walks.

From the other perspective, Brusdar Graterol has pitched less than 50 innings for the Dodgers. He has posted a 3.50 ERA with 33 strikeouts in 46 1/3 innings. Graterol makes hitting triple-digits look easy, but he has yet to develop into a dominant late-inning reliever. He won’t be arbitration-eligible until 2023, and he can’t reach free agency until 2026, so there is plenty of time for the 22-year-old to develop.

Two minor league players and a draft pick were also part of this trade. Luke Raley went back to LA after initially being part of the Brian Dozier trade. He has 30 big-league games under his belt, and he has hit .169/.246/.237 with two extra-base hits. He has mashed with a .982 OPS at Triple-A this season, and 29 extra-base hits in 58 games. The Dodger also received a 2020 competitive balance round pick (66th overall), which they used to select Clayton Beeter. He has been used in an opener style role this season while posting a 2.89 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP with 13.8 K/9. Minnesota received Jair Camargo, who has hit .233/.281/.452 with 21 extra-base hits at High-A Cedar Rapids this year.  

Maeda’s recent injury news means there is a good chance he misses all of the 2022 season, and that might be the season Minnesota needs him the most. Also, a missed season means the next time he steps on the mound will be during his age-35 campaign.

So what do you think? Which team do you think won the trade, or is it still too early to judge?

Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion. 

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I tend to agree with Mike that the Twins got what they needed when they needed it with Maeda in 2020.  I don't think they win the division without him so that was a big get.

As always trades like this take so much time to evaluate for overall value and sometimes a team is willing to lose a trade to try and win a championship so trades can be looked at from different perspectives as to who won and who lost.  

That being said short term the Twins already got what they needed out of the Maeda trade.  He was instrumental in helping them win the division in 2020 and with the performance based salary can't hurt them into the future financially even if he never returns.  When he does return he just adds more value. Camargo has been OK at High A but his K rate is a killer. He is also only 22 so has time to straighten that approach out but the bat needs some work and he looks like a backup catcher at this point if he makes it so not much there if you ask me.

For the Dodgers Graterol has been nothing special to this point certainly not the dominant reliever we thought he would be. Luke Raley who I thought might be better than Rooker, certainly better in the field, currently has a 483 OPS at the MLB level granted a very SSS but still so far nothing that great.  The Dodgers look like they might have gotten a good pitcher with the 2nd round supplemental pick though as Clayton Beeter has a really nice K rate and has pitched himself up to AA already. So that could still turn the tide of this trade.

Based on pure value I have the Twins winning this trade at least short term.  Graterol still could be a dominant reliever and Beeter could end up being better than Maeda with more years of control so there is still future value out there to be counted.  With Maeda hurt and in need of TJ it feels like the Dodgers have a good chance to win this trade on pure player value long term IMO. 

The Twins needed another starter badly in 2020 and found a way to get one so even if they do ultimately lose the total player value of this trade they got the immediate return they needed to make a difference in 2020 with a team whose window was wide open at the time.  I think that is a trade you have to make every time as a team in that position.  So I can't fault them even if they might lose out on future value.

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26 minutes ago, Mike Sixel said:

that's not how it works....do you want the division title, or not? There is real value in winning while you have the chance to win. I'm not even sure how that is debatable. 

Precisely.  The Twins had just won 103 games, but had started Randy Dobnak in a playoff game--they needed frontline starting pitching, but couldn't get it in FA.  They went out to get a guy to improve their rotation, and he did just that.  If the offense doesn't fall completely asleep at the wheel against Houston, who knows what might have happened?

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"there is a good chance he misses all of the 2022 season, and that might be the season Minnesota needs him the most" - Nah, with almost no starting pitching we can rely on in 2022 besides Ober and possibly Ryan, it's okay to have 2022 without Maeda. We have absolutely no chance to contend next year, so the timing isn't devastating. Gives the organization a chance to season a lot of young arms.

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I don't think this is even a conversation at this point.  Even if Maeda is closer to what he was earlier this year then last, he's a 2/3 starter on a team starved of front line starters at the time of the trade for a reliever.  Graterol may go on to do great things, but he wasn't what the team needed.  That alone makes this a win for the Twins.  

It's also possible that both teams win in the end.  Absolutely nothing wrong with that.  That's what virtually every trade strives for.

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I don't think trades need to be evaluated as a zero-sum win/loss metric. Both teams can "win" a trade based on their needs. I think this deal was a win for the Twins, because they wanted and needed starting pitching and got a good starter on a contract that was a good fit for the their team. The injury stinks for Maeda and the Twins (especially because they really needed him to hold down the rotation next season) but it doesn't change how good he was last season putting the team into contention.

Graterol was a good prospect and has flashes of it as a reliever, but he's not dominating like his velocity might suggest. Did the Dodgers "lose"? Not really: they needed bullpen support, Graterol was solid last year, is fine this year, and they won the title in 2020. I'd say they're pretty happy with the deal too. (Raley was mostly a throw-in)

I think both teams would do that deal again. I would.

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I agree with what most everyone has said about Maeken being a reliable starter. They probably should have shut him down early in the season; however, they read too many of their own press clippings about winning the division when in fact, their pitching staff included two starters who were really bad and a bullpen that was even worse. It's easy to talk about how the Twins got screwed when when we're in the throes of a miserable season compounded by Maeda deciding to go under the knife. 

Baseball players, especially pitchers, get injured. Who can know whether or not if next year at this point in time the Dodgers are having the same conversation about Graterol's season-ending arm injury? Hind sight really is 20-20.

 

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I thought I read Maeda time table to return is 9 to 12 months.  Hopefully he will be ready to go by next year's trade deadline so he can build up for 2023.though I wonder if we could be contenders next season.  Ober seems certain to be solid.  If we can sign 2 starters and Ryan proves he belongs we would need 1 average starter to be a contender with lots of prospects to try out.

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4 hours ago, Mike Sixel said:

that's not how it works....do you want the division title, or not? There is real value in winning while you have the chance to win. I'm not even sure how that is debatable. 

It is totally debatable. Winning a division is nice, but if your playoff run is short, big deal.

Graterol is becoming an effective MLB pitcher and just turned 23, and throws 100 mph.

He's just a few weeks older than Balazovic, and we all have hopes of future development from him, no?

I think Graterol has the potential to develop into top line stuff.

Not saying the Twins lost the trade, yet, but 1 oddball year of covid success might seem pretty irrelevant if Graterol puts it together down the road.

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So far, 2 months, 60 days of good Kenta. Nolasco did that. Glad that makes us the winner, "no matter what". 

I wouldn't make a call yet, myself. Graterol could have a great run in the post season this year (or not). Kenta did pitch 5 shutout innings in game 1 against Houston. I would say the Twins are ahead right now, but that could change soon. 

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You never judge a trade on its results, but you can always ask how it worked out. 

Maeda pitched a quality 9 weeks, not a whole season in 2020 (well, whatever).

This trade is still tbd as to which team got the best out of it.  Graterol had his TJS already, so that's no small thing, and it will help him become much more valuable than Maeda, I believe.  Maeda's been good for 9 weeks plus a few this year.  Graterol should catch up to that and surpass it.

 

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I've said it before, and I'll keep saying it. The notion of a trade having a "winner" and a "loser" is a false dichotomy. Good trades help both teams. If you get a reputation for screwing the other team, you'll never get the opportunity to make another trade. Get the reputation of wanting to help the other team while improving your own, and folks will gladly take your call. 

 

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Without looking: who's the better pitcher, Brusdar Graterol or Jorge Alcala?

Who has the better career ERA, ERA+, WHIP?

Does that change your perspective on who Graterol is as a player?

Relievers can have really high variance from season to season. It's why I get twitchy about investing big salaries in them: they can go from dominating to being just another guy in the blink of an eye...and then be really good again without injury coming into play at all. It's also a reason why starters have more value than relievers. 

but the Dodgers needed relief help and were long on starters at the time. In terms of absolute value, the Twins still probably "win" this deal because starters are "worth" more, and even with Maeda missing next season because of injury, if he comes back and throws an mostly healthy season, then the Twins will almost certainly end up getting more value out of him over the same 4 year period. (in the last 2 years, Maeda has put up about 1.5 bWAR; Graterol is around 0.1) But need is need.

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The Twins have definitely won so far. Gratenol may develop into a top not closer or setup man or will be traded for what the Dodgers will need later. We have to hope that Maeda will be good again in 2023 and, if we aren't in the race, we can deal him for something in the future.

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Judging who won a trade is very hard to do.  Mainly, you cannot just look at players in versus players out on a pure number comparison.  First, sometimes players get dealt from an area of depth, not that Gratoral was in an area of depth, but you also need to look at possible replacement people.  For example, who would have started last year or some of this year if not Maeda?  Who would have Gratoral replaced on the roster.  Would Gratoral been that much better than the guy who replaced his roll versus who would have replaced Maeda? 

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This is a fairly even trade, really.  No one won, no one lost.  Yet.

Ultimately, nothing changed with either team by this trade.  The Twins still laid an egg in the playoffs, the Dodgers still barreled over everybody.  Thus, no winners, no losers.

I suppose you could say the Twins "won" by making a move that allowed them to stay in the same position, if you wanted to go that way.  But then, the Dodgers "won" by the same token.....

With Maeda riding the pine for 2022 and the other players continuing to improve, it's unlikely the trade remains even for much longer.

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14 hours ago, gunnarthor said:

My guess is that Graterol will have the better career. He's also the better talent. So in that regard,  the dodgers probably will "win" the trade. But the trade made sense. Certainly not the worst move the FO made. 

Graterol needs to start pitching A LOT better very quickly if he’s going to top Maeda’s career 13 fWAR. It’s really quite difficult to accumulate value as a reliever. For example, even someone like Craig Kimbrel has only 19 career fWAR. 

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3 hours ago, IndianaTwin said:

I've said it before, and I'll keep saying it. The notion of a trade having a "winner" and a "loser" is a false dichotomy. Good trades help both teams. If you get a reputation for screwing the other team, you'll never get the opportunity to make another trade. Get the reputation of wanting to help the other team while improving your own, and folks will gladly take your call. 

 

I tend to agree with you, but our trade history with the Yankees is less than stellar and usually shows the Twins on the losing end of the trade (but the Twins keep going back for more - Please sir, may I have another :))

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2 hours ago, Brock Beauchamp said:

Graterol needs to start pitching A LOT better very quickly if he’s going to top Maeda’s career 13 fWAR. It’s really quite difficult to accumulate value as a reliever. For example, even someone like Craig Kimbrel has only 19 career fWAR. 

What Maeda's fWAR with the Twins?  Isn't that what Graterol has to pass? I think the Twins win this trade.  But the Didgers did well too.  They both got something they needed.  Also Maeda can help sell other Japanese players on Minnesota being a great team to play for.  Could help in future signings, Maeda's contract, and how well he has pitched when not injured all facitor in for the Twins.  For the Dodgers, they subtract an excess pitcher, get a low cost reliever with promise, and he has pitched solidly so far.  Anyway you look at it both teams objectives were likely met.

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