Kenta Maeda joins Twins rotation after week in limbo
FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — The acquisition of Kenta Maeda took the Minnesota Twins longer than they anticipated.
The trade that was made to get him, the team believes, will be well worth the wait and the price.
“We made a lot of decisions this offseason to invest in the now,” Twins president of baseball operations Derek Falvey said. “Now we also get a pitcher here who we think is going to impact us now and beyond.”
Maeda joined the AL Central champions on Thursday morning, three days after the Twins finalized the deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers and more than a week after the initial agreement on the three-team trade that also involved the Boston Red Sox was first struck.
The move was the latest by the Twins in demonstration of their desire to play deeper into October. Last month, they signed third baseman Josh Donaldson to the biggest free agent contract in club history, a four-year deal worth $92 million. They’ve also added free agent pitchers Homer Bailey, Rich Hill and Tyler Clippard and catcher Alex Avila and re-signed pitchers Jake Odorizzi, Michael Pineda and Sergio Romo.
The Twins have already declared Maeda will be a starter for them in their attempt to repeat as division champions. Maeda, who went 10-8 with a 4.04 ERA in 153 2/3 innings in 2019, spent the past few seasons in Los Angeles shuffling back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen. His addition will be especially helpful during the first half of the season, with Pineda completing a suspension until mid-May and Hill rehabilitating from elbow surgery until sometime in June or July.
“Adding Maeda to our group is huge,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “It’s something we’re very excited about to have a guy that has this type of ability, that has this type of experience. To be able to plug him in to a situation where he seems to be excited about what’s going on and our plans for him and the opportunity, we’re extremely happy to have him.”
Though moving spring training sites from Arizona to Florida on short notice was a short-term hassle, Maeda said, he was pleased to be with his new team. The opportunity to be a full-time starter was what he sought.
“Practice wise, it’s the same routine, just as you would for any other year,” he said through an interpreter.
Meada was acquired with minor league catcher Jair Camargo for right-hander Brusdar Graterol, minor league outfielder Luke Raley and Minnesota’s competitive balance round B pick in this year’s amateur draft, the 67th overall choice. Graterol was the organization’s top pitching prospect, but the opportunity to add a proven starter at a below-market-value cost was too good to pass up.
Graterol’s medical records caused the Red Sox hesitation, which held up the first trade that was supposed to send the 21-year-old reliever to Boston as part of the deal that directed outfielder Mookie Betts and pitcher David Price to the Dodgers. The delay drew the ire of Graterol’s agent, Scott Boras, and players’ association head Tony Clark. So the Twins and Dodgers worked out their own trade, while the Dodgers dealt directly with the Red Sox on the Betts-Price portion of the swap.
“I was in a limbo situation wondering whether I’m going to play for one team or for another,” Maeda said. “I was just kind of in that state of mind trying to figure out what team I was going to play for.”
The Dodgers also agreed to pay the Twins $3 million to cover part of Maeda’s salary and reimburse them for up to $7 million of his earned bonuses, according to salary information obtained by The Associated Press.
Maeda has a unique contract that has four seasons remaining on it, an eight-year deal with $25 million guaranteed he signed with the Dodgers upon arriving from Japan.
The discounted yet heavily incentivized contract, designed because of elbow irregularities discovered during his initial medical review, carried a maximum value of $106.2 million had he logged at least 32 starts and 200 innings per year. The Dodgers had a deep enough rotation to use Maeda out of the bullpen sometimes and the pitcher spent some time on the injured list, so Maeda only earned 65% of the maximum value of his deal over four seasons with Los Angeles.
Meada’s maximum cost to the Twins would be $3,713,500 this year if he earns $13.15 million, his total if he reaches all his roster and performance and bonus levels.