The Mariners could look to add another Japanese hurler to their barren starting rotation.
Reports have come down that 31-year-old pitcher Kenta Maeda is unhappy with the role the Los Angeles Dodgers have currently carved out for him. After signing an eight-year, $25 million contract with L.A. prior to the 2016 season, Maeda has primarily been a starter but has seen increasingly more time as a swingman out of their bullpen, especially over the last two seasons.
Where Maeda’s frustration stems from is his deal. If it’s not already obvious, $3 million AAV for a pitcher that’s averaged nearly 3.0 fWAR in each season of his four-year Major League career is, well, a steal and then some for the Dodgers. Maeda, however, can make more on top of that number through performance-based incentives, which revolve around how many games he starts and innings he throws.
With the Dodgers seemingly phasing Maeda out of their rotation, at least to the point where it could possibly affect the pitcher’s ability to qualify for his incentives, it’s easy to see why this relationship has quickly strained. So, with that, Maeda appears to be on his way out of Los Angeles, though the Dodgers will still have to be willing to facilitate a trade.
If the Dodgers are going to peruse the market on a Maeda deal, then the Mariners should absolutely be in on the action. Even at 31, Maeda is well above league average in terms of starting pitcher production and comes at possibly the biggest financial bargain in the entire sport, even with the incentives taken under consideration.
Maeda will turn 32 in April and still have four years left of club control at $3 million apiece. He’s not an ace, though he would immediately slot in near the top of the Mariners’ rotation as is, and could be a mainstay in the middle of that group once the team shifts towards contention in the coming years.
Last year, Maeda was in the top-100 in fastball and curveball spin rate. He finished the season 10-8 with a 4.04 ERA (3.95 FIP), 9.90 K/9, and 2.99 BB/9. He also had three saves in his 11 appearances out of the bullpen.
Ultimately, the clearest path to Maeda joining the Mariners would be his involvement in a potential Mitch Haniger trade, though it’s uncertain whether or not the Dodgers even have interest in Haniger. If not, the Mariners do have the pieces to go out and get Maeda on his own, and therefore should be involved in discussions on him no matter what the situation may be.