New Twins starter Kenta Maeda posted a video on YouTube in which he says that he asked the Dodgers for a trade (h/t to Dylan Hernandez for the translation). Maeda eventually got his wish when he was traded to Minnesota just before the start of camp.
The news is hardly shocking. Maeda had been with the Dodgers since 2016, when he made the jump to MLB from the Japanese league. He signed an eight-year deal with a base salary of just $25 million, with a lot more money being tied up in performance incentives. The full details of Maeda’s deal can be found here at Cot’s Baseball Contracts (a fantastic resource) but basically, Maeda gets fairly substantial bonuses tied to both the number of games he starts and the amount of innings he pitches. It’s exactly the sort of contract that the MLBPA doesn’t like to see. Baseball money is guaranteed, except in deals like this one.
So, lo and behold, the Dodgers started limiting the number of games Maeda worked as a starter, instead deploying him more and more often as a reliever. And to be clear, Maeda’s damn good when he’s coming out of the bullpen. He’s been used that way in the playoffs for the last few years, and he’s been great. Yet by all accounts, Maeda made it clear to the Dodgers that he wanted to be a starter. Being a starter is a point of pride for pitchers, and moreover, that’s how he gets his money.
Players are expected to do what’s necessary for the team to win, but there’s also an expected amount of good faith that goes into the relationships between players and teams. It sure looks like the uber-wealthy Dodgers jerked Maeda around to save some cash. It’s no wonder that he was unhappy there, and it’s no wonder that he requested a trade.
This sort of cynical philosophy is right up the Dodgers’ alley. The new IL rule (10 days for position players, 15 for pitchers) was basically created to stop the Dodgers from fudging IL stints for their pitchers to conserve innings and draw on their considerable depth at Triple-A. They’re the brain geniuses who gave us crimes.xlsx. Of course they used Maeda’s contract against him.
The Twins are going to use Maeda in the rotation, which means he should have every chance to hit those incentives. And not for nothing, he gets to do that with a team that won more than 100 games last year, just like the Dodgers.
Good for him. Hopefully the Twins don’t start playing with his earnings too.