Detroit Tigers: Analysis of Kenta Maeda signing

Analyzing the Detroit Tigers signing of RHP Kenta Maeda.

Jul 30, 2023; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Kenta Maeda (18) pitches
Jul 30, 2023; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Kenta Maeda (18) pitches / Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
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Analyzing the Detroit Tigers signing of Kenta Maeda.

The Detroit Tigers made some news on the off-season circuit. They were able to negotiate a deal with veteran right-handed pitcher Kenta Maeda. It was reported on Sunday that the Tigers agreed on a two-year deal worth $24 million with Maeda, who will join the team's rotation in 2024.

For the Detroit Tigers, it helps them bolster the rotation and add a solid fixture to it. While Maeda may not be a Cy Young winner, he's a solid addition and one that should perform well around league-average levels. Given the state of the Tigers, they'll take it. Plus, if things go well, he can perform better than the league average in 2024.

The 34-year-old right-handed pitcher has been in the big leagues for the last seven years after coming over from Japan, signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers upon his arrival. He remained there until 2020 when he was traded to the Minnesota Twins organization, where he has spent the last three seasons.

Detroit should be happy with the move from the looks of it. In 2023, Maeda logged 20 starts and accumulated 104.1 innings of work as part of the Twins rotation. He had a 4.23 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP during the 21 total appearances. On top of that, he managed to walk just 28 hitters while striking out 117 on the flipside.

It's a move that provides depth, but let's dive a little deeper into what Maeda brings to the Tigers rotation following this signing. He has a full five-pitch arsenal, though he mostly uses four different offerings. The splitter is his best pitch and the one he turns to most. He threw it 31.9% of the time in 2023, which leads his arsenal in usage. He held opponents to a .182 batting average, with 47 punchouts on 117 at-bats, concluding with the splitter. The 35.0% whiff rate also speaks to the ability to miss bats.

But there's more to it. Maeda's got a whole arsenal. He has a solid slider in the mix as his second most-used pitch. Maeda's slider was not quite as dominant as the splitter, but it held opponents to a .237 batting average, with 42 strikeouts over 131 at-bats. On top of that, Maeda's got a fastball and sinker in the mix, showing a curveball as part of the mix.

The headliner pitches are what will help Maeda find success. Indeed, he's not the fancy big arm on the market, but Maeda will certainly bring value to the Tigers moving forward. He's a starter who can win at-bats and induce swing-and-miss with stuff that produces whiffs.

Even if he's not downright dominant, he's a more than serviceable option for the Tigers. Plus, as has been noted already, there's motivation to add Maeda in hopes that it helps strengthen the Tigers' ties to Japan and creates a pipeline for future signings.

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