It's been almost two weeks since MLB Trade Rumors released their list of top 50 free agents. In addition to ranking the top 50 free agents, the crew over there projected contracts and destinations for each player.
The Orioles weren't projected to land any big fish, as they first appeared on the list at number 17. Having looked at a starting pitcher and a reliever the Orioles were projected to sign, the third name that comes up on the list is starting pitcher Kenta Maeda. Should the Orioles pursue him?
Does signing Kenta Maeda make sense for the Orioles?
Darragh McDonald had the Orioles signing Maeda, with a projected contract of two years and $36 million, averaging out to $18 million per season, a cheaper projection than Giolito. Maeda, who turns 36 in April, returned from Tommy John Surgery this season with the Minnesota Twins.
In his return from Tommy John, Maeda made 20 starts and one appearance out of the bullpen. He authored a 4.23 ERA, 4.02 FIP, and 1.169 WHIP, averaging 2.4 walks per nine and 10.1 strikeouts per nine in 104 1/3 innings.
Maeda features a five pitch mix, attacking hitters with a four seam fastball, split finger, curveball, slider, and sinker. His split finger was used 31.9 percent of the time last year, the most used pitch. The slider was in second, with the four seamer the third most used.
The offspeed pitches have been where Maeda has found success. He finished 2023 in the 94th percentile in offspeed run value, also missing bats plenty, thanks to his 10.1 strikeouts per nine and a 77th percentile ranking in strikeout percentage.
What has come back to bite Maeda has been hard contact. In 2023, he ranked in the 15th percentile in average exit velocity and the 26th percentile in hard hit percentage. He averaged 1.5 home runs per nine as well.
If the Orioles are pursuing an upgrade at the top of their rotation to pair with Kyle Bradish, signing Maeda wouldn't be a worthwhile move. However, if the team is looking for a mid rotation arm, signing Maeda would make sense, as he can miss bats and go through lineups convincingly when he's at the top of his game. $18 million per season isn't too outrageous, but if the Orioles can turn some of that into incentives, this could be a signing that works out well.