Dodger’s rotation stalwart Kenta Maeda hasn’t been a fantastic pitcher but he’s been one of the most dependable arms the Dodgers have had in recent seasons. Maeda stands out as one of Andrew Friedman’s few pitching acquisitions that have made sense. Most of Friedman’s pitching acquisitions have been terrible but Maeda has been one of his best pick-ups.
It seems as if the relationship between the Japanese right hander and the front office are beginning to sour and we’ve seen how that’s turned out with other players. It usually means said player is heading out of town. If you remember veteran Howie Kendrick expressed frustration for the Dodger’s redundant platooning and was foolishly dealt to the Phillies for a bag of balls and some magic beans.
I hope that’s not happening with Maeda. Kenta expressed his unhappiness with the way the Dodgers annually move him into the bullpen at the end of the regular season and the postseason prohibiting him from making enough starts to take advantage of his incentive laden contract. Maeda has a bunch of escalators in his deal that only vest when he makes a certain amount of starts or pitches a specific amount of innings.
Yet the right hander always seems to tire out towards the end of the season spooking the Dodgers to remove him from the rotation and use him as a short reliever in the late innings. The reliable Maeda had another solid season in 2019. The 31-year old posted a 4.04 ERA, won 10 games and tossed 153.1 innings. Maeda struck out 169 and walked only 51 while posting 9.9 K/9 and allowing just 6.7 hits per nine innings.
The problem (if you can call it that) is that Maeda is a fierce reliever and was once again lights out in the playoffs when pitching in relief. During 2019 Maeda posted better numbers as a reliever than as a starter. As a matter of fact Maeda has a career 3.19 ERA as a reliever and a 3.92 ERA while pitching as a starter. During the 2019 NLDS against Washington Maeda tossed four scoreless frames allowing just one hit, walking none and striking out seven.
Reports indicated recently that Maeda discussed a trade with his agent. When asked about the situation Friedman retorted by challenging Maeda to “find another gear”. This doesn’t sound like it’s going to end well. For the record Maeda has four years remaining on his contract and unless he’s traded wouldn’t become a free agent until after the 2023 season.
It would behoove Andrew Friedman and the Dodger’s front office to make nice with Maeda and not force him out of town. With Friedman too cheap and unimaginative to acquire good pitching of any kind, it’s important to keep solid arms like Maeda in the fold. With Friedman being too small market minded to re-sign Cy Young runner-up Hyun-jin Ryu and revered curveball master Rich Hill, the Dodgers don’t have many good veteran starters, and have even fewer decent right handed starters. With pitching bound to be even thinner than it was in 2019 (if that is even possible, although give Friedman a chance he certainly can build an even weaker staff than he did in 2019) Maeda’s role on the pitching staff in 2020 is going to be very important. Let’s keep Kenta Maeda around as long as we can. The Dodgers are going to be counting on him to balance out the staff next season.