Sunday, January 10, 2016

Kenta Maeda signing with the Dodgers is a dream come true

Photo credit: John SooHoo
The Los Angeles Dodgers officially signed Kenta Maeda (MaeKen) to an 8-year contract worth $25 million in base salary alone on Thursday afternoon.

His deal is incentive based, where he could make more than $100 million if he reaches all of them.  There are no opt out clauses in his contract, making his deal one of the most team friendly for a high spending Dodgers team.

This signing, in many ways has things come full circle for the Dodgers. While Hideo Nomo was not the first professional player to come from Japan, he was the one who put the country's brand of baseball on the map.

The Dodgers are most remembered for breaking the barrier as Brooklyn Dodgers with Jackie Robinson in 1947. However, they've had plenty of diversity over the years going international, from Fernando Valenzuela to Nomo to Chan Ho Park and even Hong-Chih Kuo.

While there are plenty of player from Latin American countries today, the Dodgers have had an identity to find players from Asia. Park, Kuo, Takashi Saito, Hiroki Kuroda, Chin-Lung Hu and Hyun-Jin Ryu have all taken different paths, but made their way to the Dodgers.

In comes Kenta Maeda, where he was rewarded with the Hiroshima Carp announcing they would post him a year earlier than expected last fall. Multiple teams were interested, but the Dodgers gave him a lengthy contract for eight years.

In reality, Maeda is barely making more than what he made with the Carp from base salary alone. He was willing to take a gamble on himself to earn every dollar with incentives in his contract.

Sure, there is always a risk with signing an unknown player who will be making new adjustments to MLB. This includes playing every five days rather than once a week to seeing more talented hitters with pop.

However, the Dodgers have needed rotation depth in the last year after they had multiple spot starters to take the season. Clayton Kershaw remains the ace while Alex Wood, Brett Anderson, Scott Kazmir and Ryu should complement Maeda. Prior to signing MaeKen, the Dodgers had an all-lefty rotation, which wouldn't be good for balance. The Dodgers will also get Brandon McCarthy back coming off Tommy John surgery in the middle of the season.

Maeda may not be the most flashy pitcher on the team, but the Dodgers have acquired good depth for the short and long term with several prospects downstairs in AAA.

There are several paths Maeda can take in his time with MLB. It's clear how his contract is not about money, but a fulfilling a dream of being a pitcher in the big leagues.

He'll be motivated to make a name for himself in the Majors and now he'll be part of a rotation with balance. The question is, does he become a solid mid rotation starter like Kuroda or a bust like Kazuhisa Ishii? 

The best part, will be fans in Japan cheering him on and possibly staying up late (for day games) to watch him like they do for Masahiro Tanaka, Yu Darvish and others. Dodgers gear should be aplenty in Japan from previous history, but now they'll have a new face in Maeda playing for them.

It's not only a dream for Maeda, but one for us here at Graveyard Baseball with history coming full circle on the Dodgers signing players from Asia. The Dodgers uniform is arguably one of the best in all of sports and Maeda looks as fine as the rest of them.


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