LOS ANGELES -- Kenta Maeda's unusual eight-year contract with the Dodgers says a couple of things about the Japanese right-hander: He has tremendous upside, but also comes with some real risk.At his unveiling Thursday, Maeda said the physical exam he provided to interested clubs revealed "irregularities" in his right elbow.
LOS ANGELES -- Kenta Maeda's unusual eight-year contract with the Dodgers says a couple of things about the Japanese right-hander: He has tremendous upside, but also comes with some real risk.
At his unveiling Thursday, Maeda said the physical exam he provided to interested clubs revealed "irregularities" in his right elbow. Neither he nor club officials would elaborate, but the strong suspicion is that he will need Tommy John reconstruction at some point.
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"It's factored into the length and structure of the contract," said president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, who guaranteed Maeda a minimum of $25 million that could could max out at $106.2 million if Maeda is durable enough to make 32 starts and throw 200 innings each year.
But Friedman said Maeda currently is "totally asymptomatic; he pitched as recently as six weeks ago, and that gives us as much confidence as we can have at this point that he will be a meaningful part of the team in 2016."
Maeda pointed out that durability has never been an issue during his eight seasons in Japan, where he pitched 206 1/3 innings in 2015 and averaged 188 innings a year.
"I feel no uncertainty -- zero," Maeda said through an interpreter.
With an annual base salary of $3 million plus a $1 million signing bonus, according to the AP Maeda each year can earn $150,000 for being on the Opening Day roster, $1 million each for 15 and 20 starts, $1.5 million each for 25, 30 and 32 starts, $250,000 for every 10 innings pitched from 90 to 190 and $750,000 for 200 innings pitched.
The Dodgers also must pay Maeda's Japan club a $20 million release fee, which Friedman said led to a contract that binds Maeda to the Dodgers for eight seasons. There are no opt-outs, option years or no-trade provisions, but Maeda will receive a payment if he is traded.
"We're in it for the long haul," Friedman said.
Friedman dismissed concerns about Maeda's smallish frame (6-0, 154 pounds) by citing his athleticism, success on the international stage at the World Baseball Classic and his "very astute" game-planning to exploit opponent weaknesses.
Maeda, 28 in April, helps the Dodgers patch up the hole left by the departure of Zack Greinke to Arizona and is the only healthy right-hander in a rotation that also includes lefties Clayton Kershaw, Scott Kazmir, Brett Anderson and Alex Wood.
Lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu might be ready for the season after shoulder surgery and righty Brandon McCarthy is expected back at midseason from elbow surgery. Friedman said he feels the club is "pretty well set in the rotation, although anything could change."
Maeda, the eighth Japanese-born player in Dodgers history, will wear No. 18, the same number as his former teammate with the Hiroshima Carp, former Dodger Hiroki Kuroda.
"I understand that many Japanese players have played for the Dodgers in the past and the Dodgers are one of the most familiar and popular teams in Japan as well, so I'm hoping that more Japanese fans come to games at Dodger Stadium to see me pitch and see the Dodgers play," he said.
Along with staying healthy and pitching 200 innings, Maeda said he had one big goal.
"I really want a champagne fight," he said about a potential World Series win.
Friedman said Maeda's pitch mix "will play here." His out pitch is a slider many consider the best in Japan, but Friedman said the variety of pitches combined with his command and athleticism "should allow him to be successful here."
Maeda said among his adjustments to the Major Leagues will be pitching on a five-day cycle, which he did only rarely in Japan.
To make room on the roster for Maeda, the Dodgers designated for assignment Ronald Torreyes. The club also lost outfielder Daniel Fields on a waiver claim to the White Sox. Fields was designated for assignment to make room for the signing of Kazmir last week.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com.