MLB Trade Speculation: 5 Possible Destinations for Hiroki Kuroda

Perry SchwartzCorrespondent IIIMay 16, 2011

MLB Trade Speculation: 5 Possible Destinations for Hiroki Kuroda

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    Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda might very well be the most underrated pitcher in all of baseball.

    He has a mediocre career win-loss record of 32-33, but his career ERA is very solid at 3.57. 

    Much of Kuroda's success can be attributed to his ability to consistently throw strikes, but at the same time limit home runs allowed.

    Kuroda, who will be a free agent after the season, turned 36 years old in January. He has spent some time on the DL over the last four seasons, but has not suffered any serious injuries throughout that time. 

    While the Dodgers would seemingly want to keep Kuroda in their rotation, as they are only three games back in the NL West standings, it would not be surprising if they traded him for a couple reasons.

    For one thing, the Dodgers are one of the few teams in all of baseball that can afford to lose a starting pitcher. They currently have four other reliable starting pitchers on their roster and potentially a fifth with Vicente Padilla. If the Dodgers can trade Kuroda and get a bat or multiple relief pitchers in return, then they would be better off overall.

    As well, the Dodgers are in a very complicated situation financially and may want to shed some of the $11 million that Kuroda is owed through the end of the season. If the Dodgers fall out of playoff contention before the July 31st trade deadline, don't be surprised to see Kuroda on the move.

    Here are five possible destinations for Kuroda.

Cincinnati Reds

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    Team record: 23-17

    After making its first playoff appearance in 15 years last season, Cincinnati is hoping to play October baseball once again in 2011.

    So far this season, the Reds have had no trouble scoring runs, but have been unable to lock down the opponent. Cincinnati has scored the second-most runs of any team in the NL, but has the fourth-worst starting pitching ERA in the league at 4.70. As a result, Cincinnati is still fighting to get past St. Louis in the NL Central standings.

    The good news for Cincinnati is that starting pitchers Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey are both healthy once again. However, their starting pitching rotation is still in need of improvement. Through the first month-and-a-half of the season, Bronson Arroyo has been their only reliable starter.

    The addition of Hiroki Kuroda would provide depth to a starting pitching rotation that is in need of consistency at the back end.

Texas Rangers

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    Team record: 21-19

    The Rangers have their hearts set on making another deep playoff run, but they will be hard pressed to do so unless they can add another reliable arm or two to their starting rotation.

    While the Rangers' starting pitching ERA is solid at 3.82, they don't have a lot of starting pitching to fall back on other than C.J. Wilson and surprising right-hander Alexi Ogando. Currently, Tommy Hunter is still recovering from a groin injury, and Colby Lewis is just now starting to find his form.

    Meanwhile, the Rangers offense appears to be very deep, even with Josh Hamilton out.

    If Texas can somehow find a way to acquire Hiroki Kuroda, then they will be well suited to make another playoff run.

Milwaukee Brewers

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    Team record: 19-21

    In what could be Prince Fielder's last year in Milwaukee, the Brewers currently find themselves in danger of falling out of playoff contention in the NL Central.

    Milwaukee has lost six out of 10 and is behind St. Louis, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Chicago in the standings.

    Even with Zack Greinke finally back from a rib injury, the Brewers' starting pitching rotation still has several question marks.

    As of right now, it is unclear who the Brewers can count on other than Greinke, Shaun Marcum and Randy Wolf. Yovani Gallardo, who had been the Brewers' most consistent starter over the last few seasons, has not been himself this season.

    First baseman Prince Fielder will be a free agent after the season and is likely to sign elsewhere, especially if Milwaukee fails to miss the playoffs this season. As a result, Milwaukee may be willing to make a trade for Hiroki Kuroda, even if it hurts them in the long run.

Chicago Cubs

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    Team record: 17-21

    Chicago has the worst starting pitching ERA in all of baseball, but is still just five games out of first place in the NL Central division.

    Cubs' starting pitcher Ryan Dempster is off to a horrendous start this season. After posting a 43-27 record over the last three seasons, with an ERA of about 3.40, Dempster is just 2-4 in 2011 with an ERA of 6.71. Meanwhile, 23-year-old starting pitcher Casey Coleman is just 1-3 this season with an ERA over 7.00.  

    While the Cubs' offense has not exactly been a strong suit, averaging just 4.0 per game, the starting lineup is surprisingly deep. Currently, the Cubs have the second-highest team batting average in the NL and the third-highest team OPS, which could be a sign of future success scoring runs. 

    If the Cubs could replace either Dempster or Coleman in the rotation with Hiroki Kuroda, then they could potentially climb their way towards the top of the NL Central.

New York Yankees

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    Team record: 20-18

    The Yankees are usually in the running for starting pitchers before the trade deadline, and this year is no exception.

    New York has scored the second-most runs of any team in baseball, but is two games behind the Tampa Bay Rays due to an underachieving pitching staff. Although CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett have done their part, the Yankees have the third-worst team ERA in the AL.

    Starting pitcher Phil Hughes, who was an All-Star last season, has mysteriously lost his fastball and is off to a horrible start this season. As a result, the Yankees have been relying on 24-year-old starter Ivan Nova, as well as old veterans Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon, as their No. 3-5 starters.

    While Garcia and Colon have pitched well thus far, the Yankees cannot realistically count on the two of them to carry them deep into the postseason.

    Even if Hughes suddenly rediscovers his fastball, don't be surprised if Kuroda ends up in a Yankee uniform before the end of the season.