Expectation became reality last offseason when the Los Angeles Dodgers signed Kenta Maeda out of Japan. However, in a stark contrast from what was anticipated, Maeda only received a guaranteed $25 million.
In addition, the eight-year contract was a break from how Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman had operated to that point. During Maeda’s introductory press conference from Dodger Stadium, he revealed “irregularities” were uncovered in his MRI.
Amid health concerns and questions over how well he’d assimilate to life as a Major League pitcher, the 28-year-old went on to put together a strong season.
Maeda led the Dodgers in starts (32), innings pitched (175.2) and strikeouts (179). He earned just shy of $9 million in performance bonuses.
The Dodgers’ provided Maeda with an extra day of rest whenever possible; such was the case for 13 starts. But there nonetheless were signs of fatigue down the stretch of the year and into the postseason.
It’s something the club is mindful of heading into the 2017 season. “We talked to Kenta, and he had an outstanding first year,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said from the Winter Meetings.
“But it was more about understanding the toll that it took on him and his body, and to build some mass and to put on some weight (during the offseason) to be able to handle the workload.”
Roberts added the team is hopeful to trim down the number of instances where Maeda will be provided with extra rest. “We’ve just got to continue to monitor him as well as our other starters,” Roberts said.
During Maeda’s eight seasons pitching for Hiroshima Carp, his career high in starts was 31, set in 2011. What’s more, the right-hander threw at least 175.2 innings in seven of eight years, including surpassing 200 innings in five seasons.
Maeda currently projects for another year as the Dodgers’ third starter, though potential trades could affect that.