first_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Kenta Maeda was 7 years old when he became aware of Japanese-born pitcher Hideo Nomo joining the Dodgers in 1995. “I was actually trying to copy his tornado,” Maeda said through an interpreter Thursday at Dodger Stadium. “It was very difficult.”Now 27, Maeda is the toast of Los Angeles. He has something Nomo never received: An eight-year contract to pitch for the Dodgers, worth a guaranteed $25 million. The Dodgers also paid a $20 million posting fee to negotiate with Maeda, who spent the last eight years in Japan pitching for the Hiroshima Carp.In 2015, Maeda had a 2.09 ERA over 206 1/3 innings, and won his country’s equivalent of the Cy Young Award. The right-hander has a career record of 97-67 and a 2.39 ERA. But the demand for Maeda was not what some predicted. That’s because he comes with concerns about the health of his elbow — he acknowledged only “irregularities” in his physical — that factored heavily into his contract structure. The contract, which required about a week of back-and-forth negotiations, will pay Maeda up to $106.2 million if he attains all his performance bonuses for games started and innings pitched, according to the Associated Press. A total of $81 million in incentives is a huge sum; most major leaguers won’t see that much money over their entire careers.Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said unambiguously that he hopes Maeda earns every possible dollar. To do so, Maeda would have to make 32 starts and pitch 200 innings every year for the next eight years.“The fact that he’s totally asymptomatic and pitched as recently as roughly six weeks ago,” Friedman said, “gives us as much confidence as we can have at this point that he will be a meaningful part of our team in 2016.”Compared to other free agent starting pitchers who found new employers this winter, Maeda’s contract is particularly team-friendly. He doesn’t have any no-trade protection and cannot opt out of his contract.center_img By comparison, Scott Kazmir can opt out of his three-year contract with the Dodgers after next season. Zack Greinke has two opportunities to opt out of his six-year, $206 million contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks.Before the Dodgers began negotiating with Maeda, the results of his physical were made available to any team interested in signing him. There were no secrets about his elbow. The Dodgers still gave Maeda a longer contract than any player in franchise history, other than Matt Kemp. The only player Friedman has ever signed to a longer deal is Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria.Maeda seems to understand the significance of this. He said his family will move to Los Angeles. The eighth Japanese-born player in franchise history will wear the same uniform number — 18 — worn by the seventh: Hiroki Kuroda, Maeda’s teammate last year on the Carp. Having already met third baseman Justin Turner and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, Maeda said he planned to text teammate Clayton Kershaw once his first American press conference was over.“The Dodgers obviously gave me a great, high evaluation,” he said through an interpreter. “I did study the club myself. Everything just made me want to play for the team. Hopefully at the end of the season there’s a champagne fight.”According to the AP, Maeda will receive an annual roster bonus of $150,000 if he is on the Dodgers’ 25-man opening-day active roster. He can earn an additional $6.5 million annually based on starts — $1 million each for 15 and 20, and $1.5 million apiece for 25, 30 and 32 starts — and $3.5 million annually based on innings pitched: $250,000 for 90 and each additional 10 through 190, and $750,000 for 200. The contract includes a $1 million assignment bonus each time Maeda is traded.To make room for Maeda on the 40-man roster, the Dodgers designated infielder Ronald Torreyes for assignment. The Dodgers’ depth chart for starting pitchers includes five left-handers — Kershaw, Kazmir, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Brett Anderson and Alex Wood — as well as two right-handers: Maeda and Brandon Beachy. Right-hander Brandon McCarthy is recovering from Tommy John surgery and projects to be available sometime after the All-Star break.Wood and Beachy can be optioned to the minors if everyone else is healthy, but that’s a big if. Ryu didn’t pitch last season while recovering from shoulder labrum surgery, though he is expected to be healthy in time for spring training. Anderson has never avoided long-term injuries in consecutive seasons. Beachy hasn’t been healthy for a full season since his last Tommy John surgery, in April 2014.“If we have someone who has a little bit of injury risk, that’s fine as long as it’s factored in, it’s accounted for, as long as we don’t treat it as if it’s not going to happen,” Friedman said. “You always have to be of the mind to have pitching depth. Injuries happen, things happen over the course of a season. “We feel like we’re in a much better position in terms of our depth than we were last year.”* * *Don’t be cruelIn a Twitter chat with Dodgers fans Thursday, Kenta Maeda was asked “Elvis or the Beatles?” His response: “Who’s Elvis? I love the Beatles!”last_img

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