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Dodgers front-of-the-rotation starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda will be a free agent at the end of the 2010 season, and figures to request a higher dollar figure in any potential contract for next season and beyond.
Kuroda is currently the highest paid Dodger in the 2010 season, making roughly $13 million this season. In addition, all of his visa expenses are paid for by the club, along with round trip tickets back and forth between Los Angeles and his native Japan.
The Japanese starter has been highly effective as a Dodger, with a mark of 27-28 and a 3.62 ERA in 78 games. Although his win-loss totals aren't eye-popping, he has not been given adequate run support from a struggling offense.
Make no mistake, Kuroda will receive attention from several major league clubs when the free agency period begins. The Dodgers will have a chance to keep him off the market, having the first chance at re-signing him before other clubs.
Kuroda is expected to request nearly $15 million a year, and may be one of few Dodgers expenses. Los Angeles has expressed interest in retaining the righty, but they will approach the situation with caution, as funds will be limited as of right now.
Potential teams for Kuroda include the Dodgers, Tigers, White Sox, and Red Sox. Each of these teams have a shaky starting rotation, whether it be due to a lack of funds or injuries in some cases.
The Red Sox appear to be the front-runners should the Dodgers fail to pony up the funds. The Sox are no strangers to Japanese pitchers, with Junichi Tazawa, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Hideki Okajima already on the roster. Should the Red Soxs retain each of those pitchers, and add Kuroda, the case would be make for effective Japanese expansion in major league baseball, on one of the most storied franchises in all of sports.
Boston will have the necessary payroll to afford Kuroda, and outside the Dodgers, the Red Soxs seem like the better fit.