Kenta Maeda not happy with how Dodgers have handled him

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Andy McCullough of The Athletic writes that Dodgers pitcher Kenta Maeda has informed the club that he’s unhappy with how the team has handled him.

How have they handled him? McCullough puts it succinctly for those unaware:

He prepares to be a starter during spring training. Over the course of two dozen outings, he performs like a credible member of the rotation. As summer turns to fall, the team shifts him into the bullpen, where he pitches like an elite reliever and forms part of the bridge to closer Kenley Jansen.

Thing is, it works for the team. But it’s also not great for Maeda personally. He makes $3 million a year on a long-term deal, and that’s way less than the value he provides. His way of making up for that when he signed the deal was building in performance bonuses into his contract that could snag him millions more each year. Specifically:

  • $1M each for 15 and 20 games started;
  • $1.5M each for 25, 30, and 32 games started;
  • $250,000 each for 90, 100, 110, 120, 130, 140, 150, 160, 170, 180, and 190 innings pitched; and
  • $750,000 for 200 innings pitched.

In the four seasons Maeda has had that deal — 2016 through 2019 — he has started 32, 25, 20 and 26 games, respectively. His innings over that span: 175.2, 134.1, 125.1, and 153.2. The operation of that $3 million base plus incentives means that his salary has gone from $7.25 million in 2016, down to $4.25 million in 2017, down to $3 million in 2018, and then bouncing back up to $5.4 million in 2019.

Maeda has been a somewhat more effective pitcher as a reliever than as a starter, but that would probably track for most starters. Either way, it’s a workload that Maeda, who won the Japanese equivalent of the Cy Young Award twice before coming to the United States, would like to see expanded.

Given that Hyun-Jin Ryu is a free agent and may not be back, he might have a chance to see that happen this year. But then again, he has been a part of the rotation every offseason and every early season for the past four years. Starting in September and October has been another story.

Cards’ Pujols hits 700th career home run, 4th to reach mark

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES – St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols hit his 700th career home run on Friday night, connecting for his second drive of the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers and becoming the fourth player to reach the milestone in major league history.

The 42-year-old Pujols hit No. 699 in the third inning, then launched No. 700 in the fourth at Dodger Stadium.

With the drive in the final days of his last big league season, Pujols joined Barry Bonds (762 homers), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714) in one of baseball’s most exclusive clubs.

It’s been a remarkable run for Pujols. This was his 14th home run since the start of August for the NL Central-leading Cardinals, and his 21st of the season.

Pujols’ historic homer was a three-run shot against Dodgers reliever Phil Bickford. The ball landed in the first few rows of the left-field pavilion, the same location his two-run shot touched down the previous inning off left-hander Andrew Heaney.

Pujols received a prolonged standing ovation from the crowd – he finished out last season while playing for the Dodgers. He took a curtain call, raising his cap in acknowledgment.

The fans chanted “Pujols! Pujols!” They finally sat down after being on their feet in anticipation of seeing history.

Pujols snapped a tie with Alex Rodriguez for fourth on the list when he hit career homer No. 697 against Pittsburgh on Sept. 11.

Reaching 700 homers seemed like a long shot for Pujols when he was batting .189 on July 4. But the three-time NL MVP started to find his stroke in August, swatting seven homers in one 10-game stretch that helped St. Louis pull away in the division race.

“I know that early in the year … I obviously wanted better results,” Pujols said after he homered in a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 22. “But I felt like I was hitting the ball hard. Sometimes this game is going to take more away from you than the game (is) giving you back.

“So I think at the end of the day you have to be positive and just stay focused and trust your work. That’s something that I’ve done all the time.”

Pujols has enjoyed a resurgent season after returning to St. Louis in March for a $2.5 million, one-year contract. It’s his highest total since he hit 23 homers for the Angels in 2019.

He plans to retire when the season ends.

Pujols also began his career in St. Louis. He was selected by the Cardinals in the 13th round of the 1999 amateur draft and won the 2001 NL Rookie of the Year award.

The Dominican Republic native hit at least .300 with at least 30 homers and 100 RBIs in each of his first 10 seasons. He helped the Cardinals to World Series titles in 2006 and 2011.

He set a career high with 49 homers in 2006 – one of seven seasons with at least 40 homers. He led the majors with 47 homers in 2009 and topped the NL with 42 in 2010.

Pujols left St. Louis in free agency in December 2011, signing a $240 million, 10-year contract with the Angels. He was waived by the Angels in May 2021, and then joined the Dodgers and hit 12 homers and drove in 38 runs in 85 games.