Pitchers Break, But You Still Need Them: Hiroki Kuroda

Alex Rodriguez isn’t playing third base in this picture from Kowarski, so I assume Kuroda did well that night.

Continuing the look at potential starting pitchers that we started yesterday with Zack Greinke… old friend Hiroki Kuroda is a free agent and is coming off a very good year with the Yankees, one in which he narrowly topped CC Sabathia in ERA, 3.32 to 3.38. Ken Gurnick reports that the Dodgers could express interest in bringing Kuroda back, and while the report is oddly thin – that’s literally it, it’s just “could emerge as a top free-agent target of the club,” not even suggesting that there’s actually been any movement other than just an idea Gurnick has – we know the Dodgers need starting pitching, so it’s not hard to see it making sense.

There’s a lot to like about Kuroda, of course. He’s been one of the more consistent pitchers in baseball over the last several years, with FIP scores between 3.26 – 3.86 in each of his five seasons, and he’s proven himself durable, avoiding the disabled list in each of the last three seasons. When he left the Dodgers for the Yankees last winter, there were concerns about how he’d do in the AL East and in the comical Yankee Stadium, but he topped the AL East champions in starts, innings pitched, & ERA, setting career highs in the first two.

Kuroda’s also a fan favorite, someone who nobody wanted to see leave. (Even when we all wanted him to accept a trade in 2011, it wasn’t because anyone really wanted him gone, it was because the Dodgers were out of the hunt and no one knew if Kuroda would return to LA or go to Japan after the season.) When he did leave, it again wasn’t because he wasn’t wanted, it’s because Ned Colletti had very limited funds and decided to put the money towards two pitchers (Chris Capuano & Aaron Harang) rather than one. We know that he can pitch in big markets and particularly Dodger Stadium, and we know that there’s little to worry about him as far as acclimating to the city or the team. As a fan, I’d love to see Kuroda in blue once more, and according to this report, he’s willing to accept another one-year deal.

And yet… I’m going to take an unpopular position and say that I’m not so sure about this. Kuroda’s a fine pitcher, and the Dodgers deserve endless kudos for signing him when he was a relatively unknown quantity prior to 2008. But while a 3.86 FIP in 2012 is nice, it’s also the highest of his career, and doesn’t exactly shout “difference-maker”. It’s slightly better than Edwin Jackson, slightly worse than Jonathon Niese, and similar to Josh Beckett‘s performance as a Dodger; hell, Capuano was only slightly behind at 3.95, and that includes his second-half swoon.

There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, because every team needs pitchers like that. But what the Dodgers really need is someone to pair with Clayton Kershaw, and I don’t really see Kuroda as that guy. In a league where the top teams can boast groupings like Matt Cain / Madison Bumgarner or Stephen Strasburg / Gio Gonzalez  or Roy Halladay / Cliff Lee / Cole Hamels, Kuroda as your #2 just doesn’t seem like quite enough.

You could argue that if the Dodgers get Greinke, then Kuroda would make for a fantastic #3, or even #4 if Chad Billingsley is healthy, and that’s a fair case to make. But even then, there’s concerns. While I think he’s still got life in his arm, it’s hard to ignore the fact that he’ll be 38 in February and that the price to obtain him would be sky-high for a pitcher of that age. Think about it: he just came off a one-year, $10m contract with the Yankees, and after the way he pitched for them, he’s likely to command a raise. In fact, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if the Yankees offer him a qualifying contract of $13.3m. If he accepts it, he’s off the market. If he doesn’t, then not only could you see him arguing that 1/$14m is what he’s worth, but the Dodgers would have to give up their 2013 first round pick for signing a qualified free agent.

~$14m for a 38-year-old pitcher is scary, though you could somehow argue that dollars don’t matter for the new Dodgers. Yet with the way they’ve traded off the farm system recently, draft picks are worth their weight in gold. Much as I love Kuroda, giving that much money and losing a draft pick for a pitcher of his age just doesn’t seem like the best use of resources.

267 comments
Disgruntled Goat
Disgruntled Goat moderator

Somebody tell me what to think about Shields, please. 

DBrim
DBrim moderator

If the Angels were going to trade Santana for almost nothing, why pick up the option?

Gilbert_Vengeance
Gilbert_Vengeance

Why pay Choate? Why not go with Elbert and Paco for lefty relievers?

DBrim
DBrim moderator

Ken Rosenthal ‏@Ken_Rosenthal

Source: #Royals acquire Ervin Santana from #Angels. Return not yet known.

 

That seems like a very Royals thing to do.

 

LA_Woman
LA_Woman

I know this is irrational, but I just couldn't bare to see Hiroki get old before our eyes and break down in Dodger Blue (and he *is* getting up there in years). I'd rather see him pitch well elsewhere and break down there.

MSTI OG
MSTI OG

Could it be that these owners... Actually... Love the Dodgers?...

MSTI OG
MSTI OG

These crazy ass mofos are serious about Shields.

DBrim
DBrim moderator

@Mostly Gruntled Goat Hoping that he says that he did, and it's actually the Uribe recap.

MSTI OG
MSTI OG

good for defense, especially in middle age battles

I Digesti
I Digesti

 @Mark Ellis Fan Casey Blake needs to be hired by the Dodgers in some capacity specifically for that.

capnsparrow
capnsparrow

 @VietnamDodger well Mark Walters was seen on the field high fiving the players after games while we were still alive by my lying eyes. And that is the vibe at the ballpark!

DBrim
DBrim moderator

 @VietnamDodger Shields is pretty good.  All depends on what we give up.

Mike Petriello
Mike Petriello moderator

 @DBrim  ha. Shields isn't done yet. I probaby will post a season review tonight though, it's been a few days.

Disgruntled Goat
Disgruntled Goat moderator

 @Mike Petriello I look forward to your valuable input as well. 

 

He seems up and down to me, just looking at WAR (yes, shields good, i know), but i don't know if he's been injured or what. 

 

I find evaluating players offense to be much easier than pitchers. or maybe i'm just lazy. 

MSTI OG
MSTI OG

Reliable arm with good peripherals out of the AL overrated East in final year of increasingly expensive deal for Rays who will likely have him only for this final year as they are poor. Will want the scrubs left on our farm. Shields will command substantial money after 2013. Depends on where Greinke goes.

DBrim
DBrim moderator

@Mostly Gruntled Goat 27 year old AAA reliever, and they are apparently picking up part of the contract.

DINGERS!
DINGERS!

@Mark Ellis Fan @DBrim :---------------(

MSTI OG
MSTI OG

me... Too. I feel like im watching a teenager make poor choices because he's lost in love with a hot college girl

DINGERS!
DINGERS!

@DBrim @VietnamDodger I wouldn't mind Shields, after they got Greinke though. Otherwise, see what they want for Price

MSTI OG
MSTI OG

iono how reliable the sources, but appaaaaarrrreeeently the Dodgers FO ID'd Shields as WANTED #1

MSTI OG
MSTI OG

bazookas work better.

Paulstralia
Paulstralia

 @Mark Ellis Fan  @DBrim the 10 mil is a bargain compared to what Greinke would cost. It's just that giving up prospects seems silly when ownership runs the federal reserve. 

Paulstralia
Paulstralia

 @DBrim  @VietnamDodger ohh, good pull. i saw the headline and didn't want to depress myself. I hate how ESPN throws useful information into articles that are off topic. 

MSTI OG
MSTI OG

and on Hardball Talk...

Paulstralia
Paulstralia

 @VietnamDodger I saw the article from the independent Rays blog, but not even Olney is tweeting about it, so it's kinda hard to take seriously.