Dodgers Should Pursue Kenta Maeda


The Dodgers are in need of pitching, and a surprise candidate just emerged to the top of my wish list.

The Dodgers are obviously in pursuit of Zack Greinke (for good reason) and he absolutely should be priority number one.

However, whether they do or don’t re-sign Greinke, Japanese pitcher Kenta Maeda should absolutely be at the top of the list.

Maeda isn’t a household name yet, but he very well could be in a few years. He’s pitched for the Hiroshima Carp of the Japan Central League for the past eight years and has seen a lot of success. This success led to the Carp posting Maeda this past week, and there’s no doubt there will be a number of teams in talks with the 27-year old righty.

Essentially, any team willing to sign Maeda will not only have to give him a free agent contract (which could be pricy), but would also have to pay $20 million to his former team. The new system of Japan negotiations gives multiple teams the opportunity to negotiate if they’re willing to pay the posting fee, as opposed to the old system where only one team that bid the highest posting fee could negotiate with the player. As SB Nation’s Eric Stephen pointed out, this leads to bigger contracts for the player. Under the new system, Masahiro Tanaka received a seven year, $155 million deal with an additional $20 million going to his former team. Under the old system, Texas won bidding rights to Yu Darvish by paying the Nippon-Ham Fighters $51.7 million, and then signed Darvish to a six year, $56 million contract.

Keep in mind that ERA’s and strikeout numbers may not be directly comparable between the Japan Central League and MLB, but Maeda has been an absolute stud in his time in Japan. In his first two years, he posted ERA’s of 3.20 and 3.36 at ages 20 and 21. Since then, his worst season came in 2014, when he went 11-9 with a 2.60 ERA in 27 starts. He’s won the Japanese equivalent of the Cy Young award, the Sawamura Award twice (2010, 2015) and posted a 2.09 ERA in 29 starts this past season.

Baseball Reference lists Maeda at 6’0″, 154 pounds, making him the same height and 26 pounds less than Yordano Ventura, who is the smallest pitcher I can think of. A pitcher of that size with over 1,500 innings in his arm could be a bit of a risk, but he’s never really had issues with durability as far as I can tell, as he’s pitched at least 175 innings every year except his first year.

Last year, a team of MLB all-stars played in an exhibition against a Japanese all-star team, and Maeda fared well against the likes of Yasiel Puig and Robinson Cano, shutting them out through five innings. Here’s a video of him to get a look at his delivery and his stuff.

It might be unfair to compare Maeda to Darvish or Tanaka, who when healthy are bonafide aces. That might be his ceiling, but realistically he should be a very good middle of the rotation arm. The Dodgers currently don’t really have a middle of the rotation. Hopefully Hyun-jin Ryu comes back, but he seems to be far from a certainty. Brett Anderson is back, but time will tell whether his health is really fixed and he’s a free agent next year. Alex Wood is a nice young piece, but his delivery frightens me and his best value could be as a trade chip or a lefty reliever. I still believe he could be a solid number two/great number three starter, but he’s also a wildcard going into next year.

Next: Amanda's Ideal Offseason for the Dodgers

Maeda fills a void and could be a relative bargain. MLB Trade Rumors has the Diamondbacks landing Maeda for five years, $60 million with the $20 million posting fee. They nailed the dollar amount of David Price‘s contract (missed the team), so hopefully that’s the case again with Maeda. $12 million/year for Maeda is well worth it, and it’s probably still worth it if you would rather see it as $16 million/year including the posting fee.

But seriously, sign Greinke. Just get that taken care of.