Seemingly, gone are the days when a players is content with contributing at any position on the field, so long as it ultimately makes his team function as a better unit.
One of the first stories I put together this offseason surrounded my opinion regarding how effective righty Kenta Maeda has been as a reliever compared to a starter. In reality, the numbers are actually quite staggering. However, despite his success throwing out of the bullpen, Maeda has expressed his displeasure about being bumped annually from the starting rotation, specifically to president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman.
Andy McCullough of The Athletic unveiled a piece this week reporting the news. In the story, McCullough revealed that Friedman told Maeda to find “another gear” if he wanted to cement himself in the starting rotation. What’s more, McCullough also indicated that both sides have discussed the possibility of Maeda being traded to another club, allowing him to exclusively focus on a starting role.
Despite Maeda’s frustrations, McCullough’s tone suggested that both sides still hold a somewhat friendly relationship. Consequently, it was explained that Maeda isn’t necessarily concerned as much about the money and his contract as he is with his role as a starter.
“He cares more about the role than the contract,” Maeda’s agent, Joel Wolfe, told McCullough. “But the contract acts somewhat as a limitation because there’s a lot of upside for the Dodgers in limiting his starts.”
As far as his performances go, the 31-year-old native of Japan just keeps getting better when he throws in relief, in spite of his desire to start.
In the 2019 NLDS against the Nationals, Maeda was absolutely brilliant. So much so that he was hands-down the team’s best 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.
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 comparison, over 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.
Speaking of the playoffs, here’s the crazy part: In 22 career relief appearances during the postseason, he has a miniscule 1.64 ERA with 27 strikeouts over an even 22 innings of work. In the playoffs as a starter, he has a 7.83 ERA over 10-2/3 innings.
Based on those numbers, some feel that Friedman has been sympathetic to Maeda for giving him the number of regular-season starts he has.
During his four-year tenure as a Dodger, Kenta 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.
In addition to his $3 million base salary, Maeda 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.
In my story on Friday, I stated how Maeda is expected to be an anchor of the 2020 Los Angeles starting rotation, but if the reality regarding a trade begins to gain any momentum, there could be chance that the right-hander lands with another team, especially if the Dodgers score a top-tier starting pitcher this winter through a trade or free agency.