Dodgers 2016 Player Review: Kenta Maeda
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Needing to address a final void in their starting rotation the Los Angeles Dodgers signed Kenta Maeda out of Japan. Los Angeles paid the $20 million posting fee to Hiroshima Carp, then inked Maeda to an eight-year, $25 million deal.

The length and value of the contract were both a surprise, though it includes several incentives. Maeda revealed during his introductory press conference terms of the contract were such due to “irregularities” an MRI revealed in his right elbow.

Maeda and Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman both downplayed any concern over the matter. Friedman added the club would happily pay more than the guaranteed $25 million over the lifetime of the contract as it would equate to production from the right-hander.

Maeda went on to make a relatively seamless transition to the Majors, aided by the Dodgers’ efforts to provide him with an additional day of rest whenever possible. He opened the year 3-1 with a 1.66 ERA through six starts, going at least six innings in each outing.

However, Maeda then went 1-2 with a 5.68 ERA in his next four starts, never completing more than five innings during that span. The 28-year-old settled back in throughout June and was also sharp in August.

Maeda finished the season 16-11 with a 3.48 ERA, 112 ERA+, 3.58 FIP and 1.14 WHIP. Albeit in large part to Clayton Kershaw missing a significant portion of the year, Maeda led the Dodgers in starts (32), innings pitched (175.2) and strikeouts (179).

By virtue of triggering multiple incentives in his contract, Maeda earned $8.9 million in bonuses this season. In a mild surprise Maeda was named a National League Rookie of the Year finalist, losing out to teammate Corey Seager who was a unanimous selection.

Although he maintained fatigue was not an issue as the calendar wore on, Maeda struggled in the postseason, and later admitted he had grown a bit weary. Maeda started once in the NL Division Series and twice in the NL Championship Series.

He went a combined 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA and his longest outing four innings pitched in Game 1 of the NLCS.

2016 Highlight

Making his MLB debut against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park, Maeda not only spun six shutout innings with four strikeouts, but he also hit a solo home run in the Dodgers’ 7-0 victory.

Another memorable 2016 highlight also came at the expense of the Padres, when Maeda allowed just one run on two hits over seven scoreless innings, and had a career-high 13 strikeouts on July 10 at Dodger Stadium.

2017 Outlook

Assuming the Dodgers’ rotation isn’t again ravaged by injuries, the club presumably would gladly accept much of the same from Maeda next season. There’s room for improvement in terms of consistently pitching deeper into games, which may come with added MLB experience.