When Genta Maeda (35, Minnesota) broke into the major leagues by signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers ahead of the 2016 season, he made headlines with a “slave contract” that the players’ union reportedly protested. The eight-year deal was worth only $25 million in guaranteed money. Instead, incentives made up the bulk of his contract.
As confident as he was in his ability to make it to the major leagues, the contract was a shackle on Maeda’s shoulders for the next eight years. The Dodgers wanted to use the versatile Maeda in the bullpen, not as a starter, and with so many incentives tied to starts and innings, it was a losing proposition. He was traded to Minnesota before the 2020 season.
Maeda’s ordeal culminated in Tommy John reconstructive elbow ligament surgery in 2021. With a heavily incentivised contract and little guaranteed money, it was obviously financially devastating. However, he was back this season and in the starting rotation where he wanted to be.안전놀이터
But then came another injury setback. After a relatively uneventful outing against the New York Yankees on 27 April, in which he allowed 10 runs on 11 hits in three innings, a performance that took a toll on his ERA, Maeda was placed on the disabled list with a triceps injury.
The problem for Maeda, who is set to return, is that he doesn’t have a spot. Minnesota’s starting rotation is working too well. Even in Maeda’s absence, there wasn’t much of a gap.
Pablo Lopez, who was acquired in a trade from Miami this year and has become an ace, as well as Sonny Gray, Joe Ryan, and Bailey Ober have all pitched well. Even young gun Rooney Barand has been on a roll lately, and the rotation is running smoothly.
In fact, more than Lopez, who has been the ace of late, the second and third starters have been the best one-two punch. Sonny Gray is 4-0 with a 1.82 ERA in 10 starts, while Joe Ryan is 7-1 with a 2.21 ERA in 10 starts. Bailey Ober has also pitched well, going 3-1 with a 2.55 ERA in six games, and Varland has allowed just six earned runs in 17 1/3 innings in his last three starts.
As such, local media reports suggest that even if Maeda does return, it will likely be to the bullpen. Maeda hasn’t done anything to warrant a spot in the starting rotation prior to his injury, and there’s no need to mess with a rotation that’s already working well.
Maeda is eligible for free agency after this season. To command a premium on the market, he’ll need to show that he can still be competitive as a starter despite his elbow surgery. If he can’t do that, he’ll naturally be out of the spotlight.
Add to that the fact that a new team will be unsure of Maeda’s ability to start again, and it’s a tough market. Maeda had a breakout year in 2020, proving his ability. However, injuries and poor form followed. Maeda’s case shows that free agency is all about timing.