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  • Kenta Maeda's Contract: Three Big Things


    Jeremy Nygaard

    The baseball world experienced a blockbuster on Tuesday night when it was announced that the Red Sox were moving OF Mookie Betts, P David Price and cash to the Dodgers. It has long been assumed that OF prospect Alex Verdugo would be a part of the return. But what else was Boston getting?

     

    And then in jumped the #MysteryTeam.

    Image courtesy of © Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

    If you haven’t had a lot of experience with the mystery team, it’s because the Twins - as long back as I can recall - have never turned out to be that team.

     

    But Doogie Wolfson was all over it.

     

    Not too much later, it was confirmed the Twins were sending pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol to the Red Sox. In return, they were getting P Kenta Maeda.

     

    Adding Maeda is a big deal on the field, but let’s look at three unique things off the field.

     

    ***Maeda signed an 8-year, $25 million deal with the Dodgers before the 2016 season. He has four years, at $3 million per year left on his incentive-laden contract.

     

    His incentives include:

    $150,000 for making Opening Day roster

    $1 million for starts 15 and 20.

    $1.5 million for starts 25, 30 and 32.

    $250,000 reaching the innings of 90, 100, 110, 120, 130, 140, 150, 160, 170, 180 and 190.

    $750,000 if he throws 200 innings.

     

    ***The fact that so much of Maeda’s earnings are tied to starts and innings has been a contentious point recently.

     

    The Dodgers tried to rework his deal, which he declined. The message to him was to “pitch better.”

     

    Maeda is definitely going to begin the season in the starting rotation, but someone is going to get squeezed if everyone is healthy when Michael Pineda and Rich Hill return from suspension and injury, respectively. We already know how Maeda would feel if it’s him.

     

    ***Maeda has some interesting “perks” in his deal which raise additional questions.

     

    His original contract gave him the right to wear #18. That’s currently worn by Silver Slugger catcher Mitch Garver.

     

    The Dodgers had to provide Maeda with four round-trip business-class airline tickets between Japan and LA annually. Can he fly out of MSP?

     

    There’s a $1 million assignment bonus. Do the Twins pay that? Allegedly.

     

    ---

     

    What we do know is that even if Maeda only has an average (by his standards) year, he will make nearly 30 starts and throw around 170 innings, triggering incentives that will earn him nearly $10 million total, which is still a steal in this market for a mid-rotation starter.

     

    All of the other stuff, though… stay tuned...


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    If he has the stuff to be a starter for the next 4 years. Great, pay the man. If not, looks like he's a reasonably priced bullpen option at that point. Even a trade chip if needed. Watch some video of him. He misses bats well. I can see a Romo type role in the future at worst.

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    Wonder whether the Twins will now try to re-work his contract?  If he thought the Dodgers were unfairly affecting his paycheck, he probably should be equally or more concerned that the lower-payroll Twins may find ways to do the same.  Consider structuring it to incentivize appearances and IP rather than starts and IP.  At least from the Maeda's perspective, if he is forced to come out of the pen then, he would get a pay bump to compensate for the impact to his ego.

    Either way, it is clear the Twins are receiving a disgruntled pitcher.  Let's hope Maeda is happier in MN!

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    If he has the stuff to be a starter for the next 4 years. Great, pay the man. If not, looks like he's a reasonably priced bullpen option at that point. Even a trade chip if needed. Watch some video of him. He misses bats well. I can see a Romo type role in the future at worst.

    He's been a solid starter with some fantastic peripherals though and it would take significant failure to move him out of the rotation for the long term. The front office didn't trade a 21 year old future reliever (in their eyes) for a 32 year old reliever. Not intentionally anyways.

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    I haven't been following the Dodgers or Maeda, but looking at his games logs for the pat couple of years shows usage that initially strikes me as strange. In each of 2018 and 2019 I didn't see any injuries, and he had a regular starters workload through July, and then sometime in August was moved to the bullpen.

     

    It looks a little sketchy, like the Dodgers were purposely avoiding giving him starts and innings. Can anyone that follows the NL more closely contradict this?

     

    I'm all for incentive laden deals, but this level of incentives, and structured this way, strikes me as problematic. $6.5M in incentives is tied up in number of starts. What if team uses an opener in all of Maeda's games? A totally valid managerial strategy would become a scandal.

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    What we do know is that even if Maeda only has an average (by his standards) year, he will make nearly 30 starts and throw around 170 innings, triggering incentives that will earn him nearly $10 million total, which is still a steal in this market for a mid-rotation starter.

    Actually, Maeda's average has been 26 starts and 147 innings. Of course, that's with shifting to the pen the past 3 years.

     

    But don't you need to include Graterol's value in Maeda's cost? It's not like we just signed Maeda as a free agent for this price.

     

    Estimates I've seen peg Graterol's value around $20 mil, which would make Maeda's cost pretty close to what the White Sox will be paying Keuchel.

     

    Even without Graterol, Maeda might not be far off Gibson in terms of salary and performance over the next few years.

     

    Calling it a "steal" makes it sound like we out-smarted the market.

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    I haven't been following the Dodgers or Maeda, but looking at his games logs for the pat couple of years shows usage that initially strikes me as strange. In each of 2018 and 2019 I didn't see any injuries, and he had a regular starters workload through July, and then sometime in August was moved to the bullpen.

     

    It looks a little sketchy, like the Dodgers were purposely avoiding giving him starts and innings. Can anyone that follows the NL more closely contradict this?

     

    The Dodgers also used Maeda exclusively in short relief in the 2017-2019 postseasons, when his incentives didn't matter. Seems doubtful they would do that if they really thought he was one of their 3-4 best starters.

     

    Maeda had IL stints each of the past 3 seasons -- not a lot of time, but he probably missed a couple starts each time. Also a short paternity leave -- see his transactions here:

     

    https://www.mlb.com/player/kenta-maeda-628317

     

    He first moved to the pen in June 2017, after a poor start to the season and one of his IL stints. (And after a poor 2016 postseason.) At the time, the Dodgers 5-man rotation was Kershaw-Hill-Ryu-Wood-McCarthy, all of whom would finish 2017 with better numbers than Maeda.

     

    His next move to the pen was in August 2018, when Ryu came back from injury and Maeda was agian only the Dodgers 6th best starter at that point.

     

    And his third move to the pen was in September 2019, as Stripling, Urias, and Hill all re-joined the rotation -- and all had better number than Maeda, who was probably no better than 6th or maybe 7th on their SP depth chart at the time.

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    "His original contract gave him the right to wear #18. That’s currently worn by Silver Slugger catcher Mitch Garver."

     

    Garver has worn three different numbers in three seasons with the Twins (43, 23, and 18).  Gave up 43 for Addison Reed in 2018. Gave up 23 for Nelson Cruz last year.   So {shrugs}, it seems like Garver may not care much what number he wears.

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    "His original contract gave him the right to wear #18. That’s currently worn by Silver Slugger catcher Mitch Garver."

     

    Garver has worn three different numbers in three seasons with the Twins (43, 23, and 18).  Gave up 43 for Addison Reed in 2018. Gave up 23 for Nelson Cruz last year.   So {shrugs}, it seems like Garver may not care much what number he wears.

    Perhaps he should wear the number of the person we hope to acquire next year.

     

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    I posted his numbers in another sequence.  He got half his WAR in year one of 4, he was replacement level for two years and had a bump last year.  His innings would never allow him to wear the Innings Eater T shirt and if his ERA takes the AL bump it will be 4.50.  We got league average as far as I can see and our optimism is making him something more.  Then there is the question of what he will be at age 34 at the end of the contract.  His average for four years is 26 starts and 153 innings per year.

     

    I am not disappointed or excited. 

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    One positive byproduct of Maeda being a Twin is that hopefully it helps crack the door open for new Japanese talent to come here. I have no idea to what extent having a fellow countryman on a team would matter, but I would imagine it's a positive.

    There appear to be a healthy number of higher-end Japanese players coming to the states in the next year or two.

    https://www.fantasypros.com/2020/02/2020-mlb-top-international-prospects/

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