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Yankees Have Competition, Potential Ally in Quest to Keep Hiroki Kuroda

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Yankees Have Competition, Potential Ally in Quest to Keep Hiroki Kuroda
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It appears to be a battle of two coasts over free-agent pitcher Hiroki Kuroda.

Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News reported Saturday night that the Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels are both pursuing Kuroda.

Further, Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com reported on Friday that the Dodgers might have an edge in the race for Kuroda. The same factor is cited by Saxon as the reason the Angels have jumped into the fray.

According to Saxon, Kuroda has told friends he would prefer to pitch in Southern California. His two daughters attend elementary school there.

That could put the Dodgers and Angels in the position of front-runner for the 37-year-old right-hander, who was 16-11 with a 3.32 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in 219.2 innings for the New York Yankees in 2012.

It was Kuroda who helped keep the Yankee starting rotation intact while CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte battled injuries last season.

Kuroda pitched for the Dodgers from 2008 to '11, going 41-46 with a 3.45 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 699 innings. The Dodgers didn’t make Kuroda an offer last winter in free agency, in part because of financial constraints in place due to former owner Frank McCourt’s bankruptcy filing.

Dylan Hernandez reported in the Los Angeles Times on Nov. 9 that money is no longer an obstacle in pursuing Kuroda for a one-year deal in 2013.

According to multiple reports, Kuroda is only after a one-year contract because he has designs on returning to Japan to pitch for one more season before retiring.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Hiroki Kuroda spent four years with the Los Angeles Dodgers from 2008-11 after coming over from Japan.

That makes Kuroda an attractive target for the Yankees, who are trying to avoid any financial commitments beyond 2013 as part of the franchise’s budget plans for 2014.

But the Dodgers also like the idea of a one-year deal. Even if right-hander Chad Billingsley has elbow surgery, he would likely be back at some point in 2014, according to McCarron’s report.

Kuroda rejected the Yankees’ qualifying offer of $13.3 million, so it appears the starting price for a one-year contract will be somewhere in the neighborhood of $15 million.

But the Japan factor is also a potential plus for New York, according to a report Sunday morning by Joel Sherman of the New York Post.

The Yankees have made a habit in recent years of only offering one-year contracts to older players. It gives the franchise some financial insulation; if the player falters, the Yankees aren’t on the hook for multiple years.

Kuroda will be 38 in February, so for as well as he performed in 2012, there are questions about his ability to maintain that level of performance.

The Angels are in the market for starting pitching after they didn’t pick up Dan Haren’s option for 2013 and traded Ervin Santana to the Kansas City Royals.

Free-agent Zack Greinke, who finished the season in Anaheim, is the top target for the Angels. The Dodgers and their seemingly unlimited payroll budget are also pursuing the former Cy Young Award winner.

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