The Los Angeles Dodgers can become the first team to clinch their division on Tuesday, either by defeating the Baltimore Orioles or having the New York Mets top the Arizona Diamondbacks. Whenever it happens, the Dodgers are certain to enter October as the favorites to win the National League pennant. After all, the Dodgers' run differential (plus-234) is twice as good as the next-best NL club -- the Washington Nationals, who will have to brave the Wild Card Game.
For as good as the Dodgers are, and as happy as these times should be, one blemish has emerged as of late: their deployment of Kenta Maeda, and how it impacts his pay.
Maeda, for those unaware, was recently reassigned to a relief role after spending the season in the rotation. He has a 102 ERA+ and 3.40 strikeout-to-walk ratio on the year -- both marks are beyond acceptable for a mid-rotation starter. This isn't the first time the Dodgers have asked Maeda to pitch out of the bullpen, but there are questionable aspects to the decision.
Maeda has one of the least-favorable contracts in the sport: an eight-year pact that guarantees only $25 million and is incentives heavy to the point of being laughable -- the result, reportedly, of the Dodgers finding "irregularities" during his physical. (Why the Dodgers would want eight seasons of someone they deem an injury risk is a question worth asking.) Maeda's contract is structured in a way where he's compensated best as a starter, based on innings and starts.