Moving Kenta Maeda to Bullpen Would Prove Beneficial

(Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports)

Like clockwork, when Dodgers‘ boss Andrew Friedman speaks to reporters during his end-of-season press conferences every year, he reiterates that righty swing man Kenta Maeda will be an integral part of the club’s starting rotation at the onset of the following season.

This year was no exception.

Despite his value as a starter, though, the 31-year-old native of Japan just keeps getting better when he throws in relief. When considering the wave of young starting pitchers the Dodgers have emerging, the time to shift Kenta exclusively to the bullpen may be very soon.

In the 2019 NLDS against the Nationals, Maeda was absolutely brilliant. So much so that he was hands-down the team’s best relief option out of the bullpen. Over four appearances and 4-2/3 scoreless innings pitched, he allowed just one hit while striking out seven.

It was a common occurrence to see his fastball hit 95 MPH. And, his slider looked more effective and filthier than ever.

Maeda has been moving back and forth between the rotation and the relief crew for several years now, specifically towards the end of the regular season in efforts to transition to relief duties in time for the playoffs.

Consequently, his starter vs. relief splits are significant.

Lifetime as a starter, Maeda has logged 103 games and has produced a 3.92 ERA, a 1.163 WHIP and a 9.6 K/9.

In 34 career regular-season appearances as a reliever, he has tallied a 3.18 ERA with a .992 WHIP and a 12.3 K/9.

Lopsided numbers, indeed.

Here’s the crazy part: In 22 career relief appearances during the postseason, he has a miniscule 1.64 ERA with 27 punchouts over an even 22 innings of work. In the playoffs as a starter, he has a 7.83 ERA over 10-2/3 innings.

Many fans believe that management is sympathetic to Maeda because of the way his contract is structured. In addition to his $3 million base salary, he earns $1 million for each of 15 and 20 starts, and $1.5 million for each of 25, 30 and 32 starts. Furthermore, he earns $250,000 for each of 90, 100, 110, 120, 130, 140, 150, 160, 170, 180 and 190 innings pitched, and $750,000 for 200 innings.

During his four-year tenure as a Dodger, he has made 32, 25, 20 and 26 starts, respectively. His high innings count was 175-2/3 during his freshman campaign in 2016. His low was 125-1/3 in 2018.

With Julio Urias set to return to the rotation in 2020, coupled with the emergence of arms like Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin, it may be time to consider converting Kenta to a permanent reliever, especially when reflecting on the uncertainty behind the current pieces of the Los Angeles relief crew.

Should the Dodgers land someone like Hyun-Jin Ryu, Gerrit Cole and/or Stephen Strasburgthis winter—if Strasburg opts out of his current contract—the move for Kenta to the bullpen could be inevitable.

Seemingly, there’s more than enough money floating around to restructure Maeda’s contract.


25 thoughts on “Moving Kenta Maeda to Bullpen Would Prove Beneficial

  1. As sympathetic as management might be to Maeda’s contract situation, Andrew would not let that get in the way of permanently moving him to the bullpen if he thought that would bring a WS championship to the Dodgers. The fans are getting restless and AF knows that. Contracts can be re-worked if necessary.
    In the long run, I think Maeda’s role will be determined by A) if they sign or trade for another starter this winter (including bringing back Hill or Ryu) and B) how Urias, May and Gonsolin look in spring training.
    I think Stripling has some half-decent trade value and I do not expect him back next season, so potential starters other than Maeda include Buehler, CK, Urias, May, Gonsolin, Ryu, Hill, potential FA, potential trade. I would be shocked if we started 2020 with Urias, May and Gonsolin as three of the five starters. Despite what Friedman has said about Maeda’s being a starter next year, I don’t think he’ll know for sure until they get to Glendale.


  2. I think maeda will go to spring training, and make the young guys take his spot in the rotation, I don’t think he will roll over for them. May the best arms win, the rest go to the BP, that’s the way it’s supposed to be at spring training.


    1. If we weren’t a top 10% organization May and Gonsolin would already be in the rotation. Unless we find multiple replacements, I would start Maeda, and if necessary do what we’ve done the last two years. Buehler, Kershaw, Maeda, Urias, May, Gonsolin. If we sign Ryu and/or trade for/sign a front line starter that might change of course, but May and Gonsolin both have starter stuff. Keeping Stripling at this point seems unfair to him. Get some prospects for him and include them in the trade for…. whoever. I still don’t see Cole here, unless it’s Hamels, (he will be 37 so he’s right up Friedman’s alley) and there are some interesting possibilities on the free agent market. Wheeler and Odorizzi are both 30 and had 4+ WAR this year. Michael Pineda, Kyle Gibson are innings eaters. The afore mentioned Hamels had 3 WAR and 141 innings, though we should have got him 4 years ago. There are a lot of possibilities for strengthening our rotation but I have no problem with May and Gonsolin added to it.


  3. Maeda has always been a starter. He obviously would rather be a starter. But another thing is the fact that he actually performs better out of the pen.


      1. If they moved Kenta’s base salary from $3 million to something like $5 million, I don’t think he’d mind it so much. The big question would be figuring out if it’s more beneficial for the team over the long haul instead of just in the playoffs.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think a couple of things could happen to keep Kenta in the pen. One, if they move Stripling in a trade, they would obviously need a new long man and Kenta would fill that role nicely. Depending on what they do in free agency, and Verducci thinks there is little chance they spend a lot, Kenta could return to the starters roll if they stand pat on their starters. It also depends of if they think the kids, May and Gonsolin, are ready to join the 5 man along with Urias. That would give them a very young, minus CK of course, starting rotation with Kenta as the swing man. With Gray maybe a year away, it sets them up nice when CK’s contract is through.


  4. Yep, Houston done woke up.

    Add bonuses for Kenta pitching past the 5th inning. His contract reads kinda weird. On Spotrac it says there’s no more incentives after last year. Just $3.125m. It reads that way until ‘23 if that’s the case the Dodgers should make an adjustment.


    1. I thought I remember that he had made about 10 mil in a couple of recent years based mainly on number of starts and total innings pitched. I think the base contract was for around 25 million (for the entire length of the contract) but with incentives he could wind up earning about 106 million. I don’t think it changes after last year. May just be that Spotrac only lists his actual salary.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. They do not list the incentives until they are actually achieved. Baseball reference has the same thing. Rothschild fired by the Yanks, a lot of speculation that he will join Girardi in Philly. Huntington gets the heave ho in Pittsburgh. Friedman now not sure if he will hire a GM after all. And Tom Verducci says he does not believe the Dodgers will spend a lot of money on free agents. Bloom in Boston is basically a Friedman clone.


      2. It was $11 million in ‘16 Jefe. Not close since.

        ‘19 season obviously over, and incentives won’t likely be much. However you slice it, the guy has been a bargain.

        So front offices getting frappe’d around beisbol. We be steady. The Doc Friedman Band, playing familiar tunes. I agree with Verducci. Molly Knight thinks the Angels and Dodgers will battle for Cole, but I don’t see it being much of a fight. I say it’s over in the first round.


  5. Dodgers Nation:

    “It Ryu wants a longer-term contract, expect his AAV range to be from $19m to $21m. If he prioritizes money per season and is willing to cut a year or two out of his deal, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him reach a $25 million AAV.

    Keep in mind, Ryu is a Scott Boras client.

    Contract prediction

    Ryu will sign a four-year deal worth $80 million, signing him through his age 36.”

    Should the Dodgers pay that?


  6. JP Morosi saying that AF will be talking to the Indians about Lindor. They may move him since he intends to test free agency. Contract up in two years, same as Seager, but he makes almost twice the salary.
    Morosi throws out Ruiz, Downs and Gray as possible trade pieces.
    I love Lindor, but since we already have Seager, I’m not sure that’s enough of an upgrade to sacrifice those three prospects.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I read that story too. If Seager were to move to third and Turner moves over to first it would make some sense. As far as an upgrade, Lindor is a superior fielder to Seager and he is a switch hitter. Lux has only proved he belongs in the majors, what he might bring production wise is unknown.


    1. I’m in on that deal, though I would hope Ruiz could be left out of it. Seager to third, Turner to first makes us better at 3 positions. I really don’t want to trade Ruiz and I’m not inclined to give Gray AND Ruiz for 2 years of Lindor, though a strong argument could be made it would be worth it. We are looking at a possible 10 WAR from 2 prime years of Lindor. How long would it take to get that production out of those prospects?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’d be willing to include Ruiz, but would rather not include Gray, so there you go. I’m reading some really nice stuff about Cartaya, so that makes Ruiz a little more expendable in my mind, although Cartaya won’t be ready as quickly.
        I may be the only one who thinks so but I’m convinced that Seager will be a below average third baseman. Could just be my imagination but it seems to me that he doesn’t like to get in front of balls at shortstop. That’s a major problem if you’re playing third base. I’m definitely not down on Seager but if we got Lindor I’d try to move Corey, assuming we could get something good for him.


      2. Cartaya’s grade is a 50, Ruiz is a 55. Cartaya’s ETA is ‘23, Ruiz could be up next year. Will Smith, also a 55, has shown he’s ready, but still has some work to do. To be honest, my pick for the future is Ruiz. I could be wrong, but I see him as our catcher for at least 5 years. If Smith and Cartaya are better, great. We won’t keep all of them. If it’s Ruiz that gets us Lindor, ok, but Cleveland could be getting “Victor Martinez only more athletic “.


      3. Question, would you rather see Ruiz or Smith as the backup? Or, do you split time with them? Ruiz is a switch hitter ala Grandal, but I think Smith has more power than Ruiz. I see Smitty as a .250 , 20 home type of player with better than average defensive skills. I think Ruiz will be more of a contact type hitter with defense a little better than Smith. I do not trade Gray, I would throw Downs in there because they Dodgers are loaded with middle infielders. If they wanted, I would even consider throwing Peters in the deal, or they can expand it and toss in some pitching from Cleveland’s side too. 4 for 2 deal, with Hand and Lindor coming to LA>


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