Kenta Maeda pitches in the second inning against the MLB All-Stars at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome during the Japan All-Star Series on November 12, 2014. (Yuki Taguchi/MLB Photos)
By Jon Weisman
Bolstering their starting rotation, the Dodgers have signed 27-year-old right-hander Kenta Maeda to a contract. Not just any contract, but an eight-year contract.
“We are excited to be bringing Kenta Maeda into the Dodger organization,” Dodger president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. “We have had the chance to scout him extensively in Japan and on the international stage and believe he has all the tools to be a successful Major League starting pitcher. We were honored to hear of his strong desire to be a Dodger and that only added to our motivation to bring him on board. We look forward to Kenta adding another chapter to the Dodgers’ global legacy and to him strengthening our ballclub in the years ahead.”
Listed at a slender 6 feet, 154 pounds, Maeda follows a line of pitchers from Japan including Hideo Nomo, Kazuhisa Ishii, Takashi Saito and Hideki Kuroda. He has a 2.39 career ERA in 1,509 2/3 career innings with the Hiroshima Carp of the Japan Central League, striking out 7.4 batters per nine innings.
By comparison, Kuroda — who also pitched for Hiroshima, from 1997-2007 — had an ERA of 3.69 and 6.7 strikeouts per nine innings when he joined the Dodgers at age 33. Kuroda went on to have a 3.73 ERA (3.59 FIP) in his first season with Los Angeles and 3.45 ERA (3.55 FIP) in four seasons.
In 2015, Maeda’s ERA was 2.14 in 206 1/3 innings — his seventh consecutive season with at least 175 innings. He was fourth in the league in ERA and third in strikeouts, and won his second Sawamura Award, the Japanese equivalent of the Cy Young Award.