Last offseason the Los Angeles Dodgers rounded out their starting rotation by signing Kenta Maeda out of Japan. They paid the $20 million posting fee to Hiroshima Carp, and inked Maeda to an eight-year, $25 million deal.
His guaranteed salary was lower than expected, which initially came as a surprise, but became clear once Maeda explained a physical unearthed “irregularities.” The 28-year-old put health concerns to bed, leading the Dodgers in starts (32), innings pitched (175.2) and strikeouts (179).
Maeda finished the year 16-11 with a 3.48 ERA, 112 ERA+, 3.58 FIP and 1.14 WHIP. By virtue of triggering multiple incentives, Maeda earned $8.9 million in bonuses.
In a mild surprise Maeda was named a National League Rookie of the Year finalist, though lost out to teammate Corey Seager who was a unanimous selection.
Maeda’s transition to the Majors was relatively smooth, and one aided by the Dodgers providing the right-hander with an extra day of rest whenever possible.
Also playing a role in Maeda’s adjustment to life as Major League pitcher was a sense of humor that endeared him to teammates. Some of that was on display, when Maeda wore a disguise and played baseball with an unsuspecting youth team:
The Dodgers are again counting on Maeda to serve as the club’s No. 3 starter, behind Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill. One change may come in routine as manager Dave Roberts said the organization discussed a weight-gaining plan for the offseason, under the idea of starting Maeda on regular rest more frequently.
Adding bulk to his thin frame should further work in Maeda’s favor, considering he acknowledged fatigue set in as the season wore on.