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2016 Fantasy Baseball: Dodgers Sign Kenta Maeda

The Los Angeles Dodgers continued the arms race in the NL West by reaching an agreement with free agent right-hander Kenta Maeda. Now, the top three teams in the division have each added two arms to their rotation (although the Dodgers technically lost Zack Greinke, so they net one extra starter). Maeda marks their second major addition after Scott Kazmir earlier this week.

Why the Dodgers Make this Move

Simply put, the Dodgers felt they had to add to their rotation after losing Zack Greinke. They tried to sign Hisashi Iwakuma of the Mariners, but that deal fell through when something came up during his physical. Aroldis Chapman’s legal battles nixed a deal to acquire him as well. The Dodgers were desperate to keep up with the Jones’ and needed to sign a right-handed starter to balance out their rotation.

There are some questions about what Maeda’s contract actually looks like, but the reports are that he’s guaranteed 3 million per year with up to 12 million in performance bonuses each year. There’s some speculation that he may have an opt-out clause after three years. So it’s feasible that he could make 15 million per season for the next three years and then opt-out, which would certainly end up being less of a bargain. Even still, this contract represents a relative bargain considering the going rate going for various free agents this year. In point of fact, that makes him most similar to Jeff Samardzija of the Giants. This for a pitcher that has gone 97-67 in eight seasons in the Japanese Central League. He will be 28 next season, so he is still younger than most of the free agents on the market.

Maeda marks the third recent import from Japan in the last five years. If we compare his Japanese record to those two pitchers, then we might have some idea of what kind of pitcher we are looking at moving forward. Yu Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka are the other two recent imports that Maeda would most readily compare with. Let’s take a look at each.

  • Yu Darvish: 93-38, 1268.1 INN, 2.20, 8.9 SO/9, 2.4 BB/9, 0.9 HR/9
  • Masahiro Tanaka: 99-35, 1315.0 INN, 2.51, 8.5 SO/9, 1.9 BB/9, 0.5 HR/9
  • Kenta Maeda: 97-67, 1509.2 INN, 2.64, 7.4 SO/9, 1.9 BB/9, 0.6 HR/9

Based on the numbers, Maeda is a shade below those guys in quality, but he isn’t as far removed as you might think from those guys. Of course, with Clayton Kershaw in the fold, they don’t need him to be the ace of their staff as Darvish and Tanaka are for the Rangers and Yankees. The Dodgers already have five starters in tow, but the 2001 Seattle Mariners were the last team to make it through an entire season with five starters making all 162 starts. They can use the depth because Brett Anderson, Scott Kazmir, and Hyun Jin Ryu have all been injury prone in the past.

What this signing means for you

Darvish was a front line starter before his injury. Tanaka is a front line starter when he is healthy. So, it stands to reason that Maeda should be a number two or three fantasy starter this next season. The fact that he landed on a good team is probably just an added bonus. He might be able to get you between 10 to 15 victories and an ERA in the low 3.00s. That can’t be ignored on draft day.

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