Tigers and right Kenta Maeda They have agreed to a two-year contract, according to Jon Heyman of the New York Post (X link). ESPN’s Jeff Passan Reports That Maeda will earn $24 million in guaranteed money, and Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free Press He writes that the deal will become official on Monday once Maeda passes a physical. Maeda is represented by Boras.
Reports surfaced earlier this week linking Maeda and the Tigers, although the Twins (Maeda’s former team) have maintained interest. Minnesota will now have to deal with Maeda as a contender over a division rival, as Maeda will join the third team of his major league career as he enters his age-36 season.
with Eduardo Rodriguez Maeda will likely leave Detroit in free agency, stepping in as a veteran presence within a Tigers rotation that is still very young and generally inexperienced. Most of the Tigers’ young arms have also been affected by injuries during the club’s nightmare 2022 season, though. Tariq Skubal And Matt Manning Well pitched when healthy, and Reese Olson He stepped up as a legitimate rotation candidate. Right now, Maeda appears to be the second-in-command on the staff behind Skubal, along with Manning, Olson and. Casey Miz (He is scheduled to return after missing 2023 due to Tommy John surgery.)
This season marked the end of the incentive-heavy eight-year, $25 million deal that Maeda signed with the Dodgers in January 2016, when Maeda first came to the majors from Nippon Professional Baseball. Maeda’s earning power at the time was somewhat limited due to some concerns with his elbow, though he did not have any major issues with an arm injury over four years in Los Angeles before the Dodgers dealt him to the Twins during the 2019 season. 20. . Maeda responded with a breakout performance in the pandemic-shortened campaign, posting a 2.70 ERA in 66 2/3 innings and finishing second in AL Cy Young Award voting.
With a more modest 4.66 ERA in 106 1/3 frames in 2021, the injury issue was finally resolved, as Maeda had to undergo the inside brace version of Tommy John surgery. In theory, using a brace could have reduced Maeda’s time on the injured list, but he ended up missing the entire 2022 season. His return year in 2023 was also cut short by nearly two months due to a triceps strain, but the numbers were overall very strong when Maeda took the mound.
Maeda posted a 4.23 ERA, a 27.3% strikeout rate, and a 6.5% walk rate over 104 1/3 innings for Minnesota. His walk and strikeout rates were well above average, and Maeda was not a high-velocity pitcher even before the surgery, so his 90.9 mph average was just below his career standard. Maeda allowed a lot of hard contact last year, which was a red flag considering he’s been very good and sometimes outstanding at making soft contact in the seasons leading up to the brace.
Between the hard-call numbers, Maeda’s age, and injury history, expectations were that Maeda’s market might be limited to a two-year contract (or two years with an option) this winter. MLBTR ranked Maeda 25th on our list of the top 50 free agents this offseason, projecting a two-year, $36 million contract for the right-hander. The actual dollar figure would fall below our projections, which could indicate that teams had concerns about Maeda’s ability to stay healthy. Maeda is also expected to favor completing the deal sooner rather than later, perhaps as a sign of the strong interest shown by the Tigers early in the winter.
There is no doubt that the righty has a high ceiling for performance when healthy, making the signing a very strong move for Tigers president of baseball operations Scott Harris. After spending most of his first year on the job in evaluation mode, Harris began making some modest but noteworthy expenditures for veteran talent, both in signing Maeda and in trading for him. Mark Kanha Advance this month. Adding Maeda trade puts Detroit’s projected payroll in place (per List resources) at just $85.26 million, though Harris has talked about exercising financial prudence in the past, and it’s not yet clear how much the Tigers are willing to spend this winter.
At the very least, the Tigers have the flexibility to explore a bigger move if the opportunity arises, and perhaps signing Maeda like this opens the door in a unique way. Petzold wrote this week that the Tigers were looking at Maeda for pitcher value and also “to establish themselves in the Japanese pitching market.” This is especially interesting in the context of Detroit’s interest in him Yoshinobu Yamamotoand if Harris and Tigers ownership are willing to break the bank on the player, it could be because of these circumstances for a 25-year-old Japanese player who could have up to a decade of excellent baseball ahead of him.
Shota Imanaga He’s another notable name coming to the big leagues from the NPB this winter, even if Imanaga is 30 and his ceiling isn’t considered as high as Yamamoto’s. It’s also possible the Tigers won’t be dealing veteran pitchers from the major league free agent market, as indicated by the names Seth Lugo And Luis Severino These weapons are also reportedly on Detroit’s radar as weapons available on short-term and relatively less expensive contracts.
A case could be made for the Twins to issue a qualifying offer to Maeda upon his entry into free agency, but with Minnesota planning to cut payroll next year, it’s easy to see why the Twins wouldn’t want to risk Maeda accepting the offer and locking in a $20.325 million salary for 2024. As a result, Minnesota will not receive any compensation for Maeda’s departure. Darren Wolfson of Score North He writes that the Twins had an interest in Maeda only under a one-year contract.
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