Breaking Down Hiroki Kuroda's Potential Impact on His Top 5 Free-Agent Suitors
Free-agent pitchers Zack Greinke and Anibal Sanchez have gotten the big headlines this offseason. They're seen as the big prizes on the open market and reportedly also have the largest financial demands.
Not only is he a proven commodity, coming off a strong season with the New York Yankees, but he's seeking a one- to two-year contract for an annual salary that would cost far less than what Greinke and Sanchez are seeking.
What sort of impact would Kuroda have with each of the teams that have been attached to him in baseball's hot stove season? Where would he be the best fit? Here's a look at each of his potential destinations.
New York Yankees
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Bringing back Hiroki Kuroda appears to be the offseason priority for the New York Yankees and general manager Brian Cashman.
The Yanks could use an outfielder, too, but didn't pursue Torii Hunter before he signed with the Detroit Tigers.
According to Newsday's Erik Boland, the Yankees haven't made an offer to any position player yet. The team wants to re-sign Kuroda and closer Mariano Rivera.
Kuroda went 16-11 with a 3.32 ERA in 33 starts for the Yankees this year. They know that he can pitch against AL East competition. They know he was arguably better than CC Sabathia at several points during the season.
The Yankees also know that Kuroda will be cheaper, requiring a two-year contract at most, than starting pitchers like Zack Greinke and Anibal Sanchez. Those guys haven't shown they can handle New York or the AL East either.
Los Angeles Dodgers
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Had Frank McCourt not driven the Los Angeles Dodgers into bankruptcy, Hiroki Kuroda may never have left via free agency.
While Kuroda signed a one-year, $10 million contract with the Yankees, the Dodgers used that money to sign Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano.
But now that the Guggenheim Baseball Management group has taken over ownership of the team, the Dodgers have a renewed zeal for spending money. They also have an opening in their starting rotation as injuries to Ted Lilly and Chad Billingsley may keep them out for the beginning of next season.
Kuroda would fit in nicely as the No. 2 starter between Clayton Kershaw and Josh Beckett. He won't require a long-term megabucks contract like Zack Greinke or Anibal Sanchez. And he'll have a far better team around him than he did in his previous four seasons with the Dodgers.
According to ESPN Los Angeles' Mark Saxon, Kuroda has told friends he prefers to play in Southern California, as both of his children are in school there.
Los Angeles Angels
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As mentioned in the previous slide, Hiroki Kuroda would prefer to pitch for a team in Southern California. According to ESPN Los Angeles' Mark Saxon, that's because both of Kuroda's children are enrolled in elementary school there.
So if Kuroda can't work out a contract agreement with the Dodgers and the Los Angeles Angels aren't able to keep Zack Greinke, he may find a home in Anaheim.
The Angels might want Kuroda even if they do re-sign Greinke. He would likely be less expensive than Dan Haren and his $15.5 million option. Between not picking up Haren's option and trading Ervin Santana, the Halos have two openings in their starting rotation.
MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez shoots that idea down, however. Kuroda would be a fall-back option if Greinke signs elsewhere.
Given Kuroda's desire to pitch in Southern California, the Angels have to be considered a top contender to sign him. Pitching for a playoff contender would also surely be appealing. And the Angels know Kuroda can handle American League competition after his season with the Yankees.
Boston Red Sox
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Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi mentioned the Boston Red Sox as a team that has reached out to Hiroki Kuroda. CBS Sports' Jon Heyman also included Boston among the clubs that have shown strong interest.
As with the other teams pursuing Kuroda, the Red Sox have a No. 1 starter in Jon Lester. Though he had the worst season of his career this year, Boston hopes Lester bounces back in 2013—especially with former pitching coach John Farrell taking over as manager.
The Red Sox may also have a No. 2 starter in Clay Buchholz, but he also needs a turnaround next season. So Kuroda could slot in as either the second or third starter and help extend the Red Sox rotation to five capable starters.
With payroll flexibility in light of trading Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto, Boston has the money available to sign Kuroda without bloating their budget.
Kuroda has shown he can pitch in the AL East, which has to appeal to general manager Ben Cherington. Taking him away from the archrival New York Yankees would be another benefit.
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According to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, Hiroki Kuroda wants to sign a short-term contract—one or two years—because he would like to return to Japan for the end of his career.
Kuroda pitched 11 seasons for the Hiroshima Carp of the Japan Central League. He has a 103-89 record and 3.69 ERA during his Japanese career.
With his intention to pitch in Japan, there had been speculation that Kuroda would choose between signing with the Yankees or returning to his home country. But he told the Los Angeles Times' Dylan Hernandez, "I never said anything like that."
Given the demand for his services among MLB playoff contenders, it's doubtful that Kuroda will go back to Japan before signing one more contract in the United States. Based on his previous reluctance to agree to a trade from the Dodgers, he doesn't seem like the type to use a return to Japan as leverage in contract negotiations.
Could another team make a run at Kuroda this offseason? ESPN.com's Jason Churchill mentions the Texas Rangers, but it's purely speculation. It's not far-fetched, however, because the Rangers are looking for starting pitching.
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