As you’ve no doubt heard, Hiroki Kuroda has informed the Dodgers he will not be waiving his no-trade clause, and thus will be staying with the club for the rest of the season. I have to say, I’m pretty disappointed in that. Don’t get me wrong; I’m a big fan of Kuroda’s. Choosing to exercise his option to stay is well within his rights, and I certainly understand and respect the view of those like Jon Weisman (and, I must say, a surprising amount of Dodger fans, at least among those who post on message boards) who see Kuroda’s decision to stay amongst the turmoil as a refreshing change of pace. I get all of that, and from a human interest point of view, it’s commendable.
Unfortunately, I look at it from more of a “wanting my team to win” point of view, and from that standpoint, it’s hard not to think that Kuroda has hurt the chances to do that, even if only in a small way. A few weeks ago, I noted that I would be more than okay with keeping Kuroda to soak up some innings over the last few months if the deal was just going to be a salary dump, with little in the way of talent coming back. Yet as dominoes have begun to fall over the last few days, we’ve seen that this particular trade season is shaping up as a clear seller’s market. Look at what Toronto was able to do in exchange for some relievers and eating a bad contract. Look how much the Orioles got for 36-year-old Koji Uehara, or the Mets for two months of Carlos Beltran, or the reported return for Ubaldo Jimenez if that goes through. With Detroit, St. Louis, and Cleveland (maybe) all having picked up starters, that left the Red Sox, Yankees, and Rangers to fight over Kuroda, the clear top remaining starter. That’s an enviable position to be in.
I know rumors are just that, but when the Dodgers reportedly asked the Yankees for starter Ivan Nova and one of their three quality catching prospects, several baseball writers I respect greatly tweeted that they didn’t think that was enough of a return, even if the Yankees balked at it. The Dodgers were reportedly even scouting Tiger 3B prospect Nick Castellanos, who they almost certainly weren’t going to get, but at least they were shooting high. As the market took shape, my initial misgivings that the prospects may not be worth the effort turned into a feeling that the Dodgers could really get someone who would make a difference for the future. Not a superstar, of course, but at least a solid starter and perhaps a lottery ticket at one of the positions where the Dodgers have little depth.
Instead, we have 8-10 more starts of Kuroda to look forward to, and that might be it if he decides to go back to Japan after the season. I know some will be happy with that, saying that it proves he’s “true blue” or makes the club better for the last two months, but I don’t really see what that accomplishes. At the end of the season, his current 6-13 record will be something like 8-17, and the team will still be several games under .500 and double-digit games out of a playoff spot. Having Kuroda around, or not, was not going to change the fortunes of the 2011 club. Trading him might have helped future versions of the club, teams he’ll have been long retired from, and while I’m glad he enjoys being a Dodger enough to invoke his no-trade clause, he could have also gone on a two-month road trip somewhere and re-signed in Los Angeles the day after the season ended, if he chose. His gain, short-term, is probably our loss, long-term, and it’ll be a bit hard for me to watch his next start without that thought in the back of my mind.