The long, long 8-year ‘slave contract’ is finally over. Kenta Maeda (35, Minnesota Twins), who is returning from elbow surgery, is it possible to make a belated “Jackpot”?
Maeda, who was a lone ace of the Hiroshima Toyo Carp of the Japanese professional baseball, challenged the major leagues with a posting system in 2016 and signed a contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, familiar with Asian players. However, the size of the contract was questionable. The guarantee amount was only 8 years and $25 million. It was a shocking contract accepted by the Japanese ace. The Dodgers, who were not sure about the condition of Maeda’s elbow, needed a safety device and added various incentives to the contract, such as whether or not to include an opening roster, the number of games, and innings.
After that, Maeda quietly performed his duties at the Dodgers. He went 47-35 with a 3.87 earned run average in 137 games (103 starts) over four years and did his part. However, while he was a starter, he had a strong plate before the 5th inning because the odds of hitting surged when he met the batting order for the 3rd time. He also occasionally pitched in the bullpen. In many ways, Maeda was neglected compared to his reputation in Japan.
Traded to Minnesota ahead of the 2020 season, 안전놀이터 Maeda has been in the spotlight since entering the major leagues. In the 2020 season, which was played in a shortened season due to Corona 19, 11 games, 66⅔ innings, 6 wins and 1 loss, an average ERA of 2.70, 80 strikeouts, 10 walks, and a WHIP of 0.75. In 2020, he made a splendid comeback when he finished second in the American League Cy Young Award. Maeda finally smiled broadly.
However, with an average ERA of 4.66 in 21 games in the 2021 season, 6 wins and 5 losses, his performance was lower than the previous season. And on August 22 (Korean time) of this year, after recording 5 runs in 4⅓ innings against the New York Yankees, he was unable to climb the mound, and in September, he underwent elbow surgery, Tommy John, and entered a long rehabilitation tunnel. As he entered his mid-30s, he was at a crossroads in his career.
However, Maeda has made up his mind and is on the verge of returning. Maeda, who took a break from the entire 2022 season, is now back on the mound. On the 29th, Dan Hayes, a reporter in charge of Minnesota for ‘The Athletic’, said on his SNS, ‘Maeda digests normal spring camp without restrictions’.
Now, the eight-year slave contract signed in 2016 ends this year. After recovering from his injury, he has no choice but to come back to the mound with the determination to become an assistant referee.
Justin Verlander (New York Mets) is a representative figure who successfully returned from elbow surgery even in his mid-30s. Last year, after returning from elbow surgery, Verlander won the Cy Young Award with a record of 18 wins, 4 losses and an ERA of 1.75 at the age of 39 last year. And this year, he broke a large contract with the Mets for a two-year, $86.66 million average annual value of over $43 million.
Direct comparisons between Verlander and Maeda are difficult. But Verlander expressed hope that he could make a comeback after undergoing elbow surgery in the twilight of his career. Will Maeda be able to successfully recover and win a contract that will wash away the pain of his previous cheap slave contracts?