When it was reported the other day by Christopher Meola that Kenta Maeda had signed with the Dodgers for eight years, most were understandably skeptical. That skepticism only grew when Meola later reported that the deal was for $24 million guaranteed with a bunch of performance bonuses, because why would anybody agree to that contract when almost every half-decent pitcher is getting $100 million guaranteed?
@mlbtraderumors @MLBONFOX Kenta Maedas deal is for 8yrs 24 Million, + 10-12 million a yr in incentives. 3 million AAV. Creative deal for LA.
— Christopher meola (@DfineNrmLC) January 2, 2016
Is Master P his agent? https://t.co/5UgxuxJgyx
— Chad Moriyama (@ChadMoriyama) January 2, 2016
Well, it turns out Meola was wrong, technically at least. The deal is actually for 8 years and $25 million, a difference of a whole million dollars, according to Joel Sherman.
If it matters, heard guarantee on Maeda’s deal with #Dodgers is 8yrs at $25M, not $24M. Gambling on self with tons of performance bonuses
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) January 2, 2016
The major question remaining is what exactly the performance bonuses are (at this point, I have no reason to doubt that they are for between $10-12 million as Meola says). We know that they can essentially only be given to pitchers for time on the active roster, awards, and playing time, but the composition of the bonuses is still important — $12 million for remaining on the active roster is a lot different than $12 million for winning the MVP, for example.
Still, even though we don’t know what the bonuses are yet, if Maeda will be maxing out at $15 million annually, it sure seems almost impossible to complain. Some fans are understandably worried that medical problems have led him to signing this type of contract, but even if that was true, this deal insures that if Maeda is a complete bust or blows out his arm then the risk for the team is still a measly $3 million annually (~$5.5 million with posting fee). Heck, even if the entire contract was a waste, the total outlay would still be significantly less money than the Dodgers paid Hector Olivera to go away (or about the same with the $20 million posting fee).
Yesterday, Daniel broke down what kind of pitcher Maeda might be, and there’s reasonable debate over whether he’ll slot into the middle of the rotation or the back of one, but this deal essentially guarantees that if he has enough quality to stick anywhere in the rotation, he’ll end up being worth the contract even if he hits all the bonuses.
In an ideal world, Maeda would pitch like Hiroki Kuroda, help anchor the Dodgers rotation, and the team would get a bargain. But even if it doesn’t work out, the deal appears to remarkably minimize the risk taken on an accomplished but unknown quantity, and the contract is shaping up to be about as good as it gets.