What can and should the Dodgers do with Kenta Maeda?

On the field, Kenta Maeda is one of the most passionate players on the Dodgers. And now, he’s become one of the most vocal off of the field.

Maeda will be entering his fifth season in the Majors in 2020, and as of yet he has not spent a single minute on any team not playing their home games in Chavez Ravine. But after his comments a few days ago, his days in LA may be coming to an end.

Based on Andy McCullough’s article for the Athletic, Maeda wants to stay in LA with the Dodgers, but as a starting pitcher, not as a quasi-starter who shuffles to left field during the playoffs to watch the game from the bullpen.

In 2019, Maeda made 26 starts, fourth-most on the Dodgers, which is a testament both to his health and skill. He went 10-8 as a starter with a 4.14 ERA and 26.2% strikeout rate in 137 innings. It was his most starts since he was a full-time starter during his rookie season in 2016, when his ERA was down at 3.48.

Though Maeda is certainly a league-average starting pitcher, or better, his merits are derived partially because he can come out of the bullpen and dominate. Like the Dodgers position players, his versatility helps make the team deeper and better all around. Yet Maeda, known as one of the more humble players on the team, is ready to be a full-time starter again with the Dodgers.

The question is, will they have him?

Do the Dodgers really need Maeda in the rotation to compete in 2020? He’s not expensive, and he’s signed through 2023 with a contract that makes it tough for him to earn over $10 million a year.

The same could have been said of Alex Wood, who the Dodgers dealt before last season (along with Yasiel Puig) to the Cincinnati Reds to bolster the farm system and to make room on the active roster.

Could Maeda’s fate be the same? The southpaw Wood was traded before his age-28 season with only a few years of arbitration left on his deal.  Maeda is 31 years old, and a right-hander, but he arguably has even more of a track record of consistency under his belt.

Next: Three bold predictions for the offseason

If the Dodgers are looking to free up space for Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin, and Julio Urias in the rotation, then Maeda may be on his way out of LA.