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Tigers sign Maeda to 2-year, $24M deal

Brace Hemmelgarn / Getty Images Sport / Getty

The Detroit Tigers added a veteran arm to their rotation, signing right-hander Kenta Maeda to a two-year contract worth $24 million, the team announced Tuesday.

Maeda will earn $14 million in 2024 and $10 million in 2025.

The 35-year-old heads to the Tigers on the heels of a solid comeback season for the Minnesota Twins. After missing all of 2022 following elbow surgery, Maeda returned to post a 4.23 ERA, 4.02 FIP, and 1.17 WHIP with 117 strikeouts in 21 appearances (20 starts). His 10.1 K/9 rate was his best mark since 2020.

Maeda's splitter and slider are the primary offerings in his five-pitch arsenal. He also uses a four-seam fastball and the occasional sinker and curve. Opposing batters hit just .182 and slugged .263 off his splitter in 2023.

Although he was roughed up during two postseason relief appearances, Maeda finished his regular season on a high note by posting a 2.81 ERA and holding opponents to a .208/.269/.375 slash line over 25.2 innings in September.

He'll be looked upon to provide a steadying presence atop a talented but young rotation in Detroit. Maeda is currently slated to be the team's only starter above age 27. His new rotation mates include former top prospects Tarik Skubal, Matt Manning, and Casey Mize, who's set to return from Tommy John surgery.

"We wanted to add a veteran presence in our rotation that could help us win games and influence our young starters," Tigers president of baseball operations Scott Harris said, according to the Detroit Free Press' Evan Petzold. Harris added, "I hope the most important influence will be commanding pitches to all parts of the zone."

The Tigers have targeted pitching this offseason as they look to take the next step toward competing in the AL Central, especially after Eduardo Rodriguez opted out of his deal. Although the club posted a losing record again this year, it improved by 12 wins from 2022 and finished in second place for the first time since 2016.

The Twins decided it was too early in the offseason to aggressively push to re-sign Maeda, sources told the Detroit Free Press' Evan Petzold. That opened the door for the Tigers to swoop in and steal him from their division rivals.

Maeda, a star in his native Japan before coming to the majors in 2016, owns a 3.92 ERA and 1.14 WHIP with 951 strikeouts across seven big-league seasons with the Twins and Los Angeles Dodgers. He was the AL Cy Young runner-up during the shortened 2020 campaign.

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