Hiroki Kuroda has done his part to help the Dodgers but as a free agent this winter, it may not be enough to bring him back.
If one pitcher embodied the Dodgers’ up and down season, it’s Hiroki Kuroda. Despite a solid earned run average hovering above or below 3.00 in his 29 starts, his record of 11-16 is mostly due to lack of run support and the occasional shaky outing.
Kuroda’s a free agent at season’s end and despite his consistency the past few seasons, it’s possible the Dodgers will let him walk and save the $11.7 million they’ll pay him this year. The question is, who can the Dodgers look at to replace him.
The 2012 free agent market offers slim pickings on the mound. It’s unlikely the Dodgers will get or can afford a big name starter so they’re better off gambling with someone who can support Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley
In replacing Kuroda, the Dodgers need to find a reliable veteran who can bring some stability to a lineup. Someone who can be a reliable No. 3 or 4 and most of all inexpensive, since the Dodgers more than likely won’t be able to afford a big name.
Here are four candidates worth looking at who could cost half as much or less than Kuroda.
(2011 Salary $1.5 million)
Harden is 4-2 in 12 starts this year with an ERA of 4.74. We're a long way from when Harden was part of the promising As rotation with Tim Hudson and Barry Zito, but at 29, he’s still young enough to take a chance on.
However, Harden’s an injury risk and that barred him from being traded to the Red Sox this summer. Also, Harden’s time in the National League was up and down with a 14-10 record (but a respectable 3.31 ERA) with the Cubs in 2008 and 2009.
The Dodgers have a history of signing pitchers who turned out to be health risks (Jason Schmidt, anyone), yet with Harden as a potential No. 3 or 4 on the cheap, he won’t be as much of a risky bust. If healthy, he could be a steal if he’s revitalized pitching in the friendly confines of Dodger Stadium
(2011 salary: $8 mil)
Piniero was high on the Dodgers wish list during the 2009 winter meetings. He ended up heading down south to the Angels where he’s been solid to average as a back-of-the-rotation guy the last two years (16-13, 4.43 ERA as of this day).
Two years later, the Dodgers have a chance to bring him on board at a cheaper rate and at 33. It’s unlikely Piniero will command such a high salary as a No. 3 or 4 starter. With his sinkerball, he’ll get groundouts easy and he’ll be a reliable fixture in the order.
His only problem is that he doesn’t get many strikeouts and with his ERA, he’d be a downgrade from Kuroda. But in terms of a veteran arm who comes cheap and could be effective, there aren’t too many better options at this point.
(2011 Salary: $3.5 mil)
Dodgers fans might remember Harang after he threw six no-hit innings against them earlier this year. Judging from his 13-5 record and 3.74 ERA, he’s done better than expected in his first year with the Padres.
The Dodgers were in talks to acquire him two years ago but they couldn’t get the Cincinnati Reds to pay two-thirds of his $14 million salary. Now that his price is cheaper, he’s a much better bargain and has a stronger resume.
This one might be hard to see happen for the Dodgers since Harang is a San Diego native and attended San Diego State. The Padres also don’t have a great track record of holding onto great talent, so they may try hard to retain Harang for at least another year.
He’ll turn 34 next May and the only concern will be if he’ll remain back on the upswing or revert back to the how he pitched from 2008-2010 in Cincinnati (18-38 with a 4.71 ERA). I’d say it can't hurt the Dodgers to try turn a division rival into an asset.
(2011 Salary: $1.5 mil)
At 35, Garcia may be on the downhill but he’s still a serviceable pitcher. At 11-7 with a 3.50 ERA, you can make an argument that he’s the second best pitcher on the Yankees. Considering it’s CC Sabathia and a mixed bag behind him, that says a lot.
Garcia’s also a cheap investment and if he can give the Dodgers a good year or two, he could fill the same role as Kuroda. He’s gone 23-13 over the past two seasons and even though he’ll be 36 next June, he’s probably be good for 10-11 wins again in a great pitcher’s park.