Hiroki Kuroda Will Agree to a Trade, Unless He Won’t

I usually don’t make posts for quick, small items – the dawn of Twitter killed that, because I used to – but these back-to-back tweets by SI‘s Jon Heyman and the Boston Globe‘s Gordon Edes are too good to pass up.

Heyman, 1:49pm PT:

friend of kuroda says hed be surprised i hiroki consented to a trade out of LA. #tradedeadline

Edes, 1:50pm PT:

Kuroda has indicated to Dodgers that he is open to deals w/Texas, Bos, and NYY. Texas has been pushing hard#trades

The lesson, as always? Don’t believe everything you hear, especially when it’s 23 hours before the trading deadline, and especially especially if it was delivered in 140 characters or less.

 

Matt Kemp’s Homer Tops Ted Lilly’s Homers


So much for that mini-slump Matt Kemp was supposedly stuck in during the early-to-mid part of July, right? Kemp entered tonight having reached base ten times over his previous five games, including three doubles, and then outdid himself in the 9-5 win over Arizona by driving in the first five runs on a single and a three-run homer – in addition to a nice diving catch in the top of the 7th. How ridiculous is Kemp right now? After the catch, Sports Illustrated‘s Jon Heyman actually tweeted that as far as he’s concerned, the best player in baseball right now is either Kemp or Toronto’s Jose Bautista, who’s sporting a line of something like .682/.951/2.933. High praise indeed, even if it’s probably not accurate, almost enough to not make you want to cry when reading Ramona Shelburne’s account of how Ned Colletti’s hands are tied by the McCourt mess in signing Kemp to the long-term deal he so clearly deserves. (Speaking of which, the latest report is that those two idiots could spend nearly $35m in legal fees alone settling their divorce case. That’s a completely appropriate use for that kind of cash, isn’t it?)

While Kemp will get the accolades, and rightfully so, it’s important to note that even he can’t drive in five runs on two hits without a little bit of help, and for once, he wasn’t the only Dodger contributing. Six other Dodgers had hits with Juan Rivera and Aaron Miles each chipping in two (Rivera’s were both doubles), and Andre Ethier with three plus a hit-by-pitch.

Of course, all that offense was needed since Ted Lilly gave up two more homers (including one to Willie Bloomquist, which really should be a felony, right?), plus another from Matt Guerrier. Mike MacDougal, terrifyingly the new setup man with Kenley Jansen on the disabled list with an irregular heartbeat, managed to get through the 8th without trouble (as I joked on Twitter, one benefit of his new status is that he won’t have to come in with men on base), and Javy Guerra finished up in the 9th.

The win puts them to 12-11 in July with one game yet to go; they haven’t had a winning month so far in 2011, unless you count March’s 1-0. They’ve also won 11 of 17, which is quite an encouraging streak, and a credit to Don Mattingly, I believe. They’re also still 12.5 games back in the NL West and 13 back in the wild card, so let’s not get too carried away. Still, this team could have easily rolled over and died, and instead they’re showing us some life. We can take some solace in that, at least.

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Roster notes: Josh Lindblom was recalled to take Jansen’s spot on the roster. Jansen is actually feeling well enough that he threw a bullpen session today, but due to the blood thinners he’s on, he’s not allowed to be in a position where he could get hit in the head. Casey Blake went 3-4 with a double in a rehab game tonight, and could take the spot of Juan Uribe, who may go on the DL thanks to a strained groin. Finally, because several of you asked last week, the reason Carlos Monasterios isn’t pitching in the minors is because he hurt his elbow so badly that he underwent Tommy John surgery this week. Don’t expect to see him in the bigs until 2013 at the earliest.

And when, oh when, will we be free of Eugenio Velez?

******

Fun as it was to see the offense show some life, let’s not pretend that tonight’s game is in any way more important or interesting than the rapidly-developing trade market, and all of the focus is shining squarely on Hiroki Kuroda, Jamey Carroll, and Rafael Furcal.

The other day, I said that I thought it was 70/30 that Kuroda would stay in Los Angeles, but I’m beginning to soften on that stance. As Ken Gurnick notes at dodgers.com, Kuroda could easily end the speculation by simply saying he’s not going to accept any trades. He hasn’t done that, which sounds like there is at least the possibility that he’ll take a deal that he likes. That plus the fact that Kuroda’s standing as the best starting pitcher available (I’m assuming Ubaldo Jimenez isn’t going anywhere) was enhanced by his nice start the other night allows for the chance that the Dodgers could get a decent prospect in return. It certainly doesn’t hurt that the Yankees saw A.J. Burnett lose to Baltimore (despite 10 strikeouts) tonight and have a doubleheader to deal with tomorrow, either.

As for the infielders, a few days ago I thought it was all but certain that Carroll was gone, particularly when Milwaukee lost Rickie Weeks, but now I think that’s less likely. The Dodgers reportedly would consider trading either Carroll or Furcal, but not both. You can make the argument that that’s foolish – hint: it is – yet if it’s going to be one or the other, you’d have to think it’s Furcal. He’s the one who isn’t going to have a place to play when Dee Gordon returns in September. He’s the one who still has $4m on his contract, and he’s the one who is now drawing interest from several teams, including the Diamondbacks and the Cardinals. (And let’s not miss this opportunity to laugh at the Cardinals for needing to replace the woeful Ryan Theriot, because, ha.) For all the talk of how awful Furcal’s season has been, he does have eight hits in his last six games, including a double tonight, and when he’s healthy he’s certainly a contributor. So I do think he goes, and Carroll stays.

Of course, if it were up to me, they’d both go; Carroll certainly has value in this market. What’s the harm of playing Gordon every day at shortstop, and Miles splitting time at second and third with Blake and Ivan DeJesus until Uribe is healthy? That’ll get you through the season, and while I like Carroll, if you can get something for a guy who’s about to be 38, you do it.

Finally, the end of Gurnick’s trade report is worth reprinting, if only because he presented it with no additional comment:

There also have been inquiries about catchers Rod Barajas and Dioner Navarro.

I can think of a few inquiries there. None of them have anything to do with trades, though.

Hiroki Kuroda, L (6-13)


If Wednesday night’s loss to Colorado was indeed the final start as a Dodger for Hiroki Kuroda, it came in the most appropriate fashion possible: six innings of one-run ball, twice as many strikeouts (six) as walks (three)… and yet another loss, since the inept Dodger offense couldn’t be bothered to put a run on the board until Rod Barajas‘ solo homer with one out in the ninth. (On a side note, another strike for pitcher W/L records; Kuroda, Blake Hawksworth, and Mike MacDougal all allowed the same damage of one earned run. Kuroda allowed that much over six innings, while Hawksworth did it in one and MacDougal in one and a third. Yet Kuroda is the one with the blemish on his record. Uh, okay.)

That inspired Jon Weisman to pass along this astonishing note:

Since May 22, Kuroda is 1-10 with a 3.38 ERA.

Unbelievable. Let’s take a look at that stretch of games…

Gm Date Opp Rslt Inngs Dec IP H ER BB SO HR 2B 3B
10 May 22 CHW L,3-8 GS-6 L(5-4) 5.2 9 4 2 3 2 2 0
11 May 28 FLA L,1-6 GS-6 L(5-5) 5.1 10 5 1 2 0 4 0
12 Jun 3 CIN L,1-2 GS-6 L(5-6) 6.0 6 2 4 3 0 0 0
13 Jun 8 PHI L,0-2 GS-6 L(5-7) 5.1 4 1 3 7 1 1 1
14 Jun 13 CIN L,4-6 GS-7 L(5-8) 6.1 7 2 0 6 1 0 0
15 Jun 19 HOU W,1-0 GS-7   7.0 3 0 2 6 0 2 0
16 Jun 25 LAA L,1-6 GS-5 L(5-9) 5.0 3 2 1 2 1 0 1
17 Jul 1 LAA W,5-0 GS-7 W(6-9) 7.0 3 0 1 4 0 1 0
18 Jul 6 NYM L,3-5 GS-6 L(6-10) 6.0 8 4 1 2 0 4 0
19 Jul 16 ARI L,2-3 GS-6 L(6-11) 6.0 5 3 0 7 1 3 0
20 Jul 22 WSN L,2-7 GS-7 L(6-12) 6.1 7 3 3 7 1 1 0
21 Jul 27 COL L,1-3 GS-6 L(6-13) 6.0 6 1 3 6 0 1 0
            133.0 128 46 36 103 14    
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/28/2011.

Five times he allowed fewer than two earned runs, and still came away with the loss. In fact, the only two times in that entire stretch where he didn’t come down with an L were the two games in which he was essentially perfect – seven scoreless innings on June 19 against Houston (which didn’t even get him a win), and seven more scoreless innings on July 1 against the Angels.

And yet, from all we’ve heard, Kuroda has little interest in being freed from this trap, despite rumors that interest from the Red Sox and Yankees (in addition to the Rangers, Brewers, Indians, and Tigers) is growing. Kuroda’s comments to MLB.com show little inclination of a man preparing to leave town:

“My honest feeling is that I can’t fathom wearing another uniform than the Dodgers uniform right now,” Kuroda said through a translator. “I never thought about it, and it’s really hard to think.”

That may be, but Kuroda holds all the power in a potential deal, meaning he could have come out weeks ago and said he flat-out didn’t want to be traded.

“I haven’t really decided on anything, so I can’t really give you an answer,” Kuroda said. “Today I was wearing a Dodgers uniform, and I was playing here, to win, for this team. I have a few days before the Trade Deadline, so I’m going to think about it, I’m going to talk to my agent about it, and we’ll go on from there.”

Of course, Kuroda is a notoriously private person in the public eye, so it’s not in his personality to say anything that would take his focus away from the next start or even the next pitch. As the deadline nears, it’s becoming clear that the best thing for the Dodgers is to see him elsewhere. Whenever the Yankees and Red Sox are in on the same player, that can only mean good things for the seller, particularly since the Yankee rotation behind CC Sabathia continues to be a mess as Phil Hughes struggles to regain his form, and the injury concerns for Boston’s Clay Buchholz are growing.

Besides the big two, Milwaukee’s interest in working with the Dodgers may have only grown since second baseman Rickie Weeks injured his ankle last night. That, plus the death knells of Craig Counsell‘s career (0 for his last 43 [!!!]), the struggles of Casey McGehee, and Yuniesky Betancourt being Yuniesky Betancourt means that the Brewers ought to be in hard on Jamey Carroll, or even Rafael Furcal – or both. And Detroit and Cleveland are both rumored to still be extremely interested in adding Kuroda.

Clearly, it’s best for the Dodgers that Kuroda move on; depending on who they get back, it would help for the future, and in the short term, it’s not like Dana Eveland or John Ely couldn’t lose games as regularly as Kuroda has been. Professionally, it’s certainly best for Kuroda, who would go to a team that isn’t a total embarrassment and offer him a chance to play in October. It’s the personal issue that is the sticking block, though one would think that going on a two-month road trip before being free to choose whether to return to Los Angeles or even Japan wouldn’t be so much as to scuttle the entire idea.

With 3 days left before the deadline, I’m putting the odds at 70/30 that Kuroda stays in Los Angeles. Prove me wrong, Hiroki (and Ned). Prove me wrong.

Trading Season Heats Up, But Maybe Not For the Dodgers


A few days ago, I wondered if there was any chance of prying outfielder Colby Rasmus away from St. Louis, saying that I would gladly trade Hiroki Kuroda, a bullpen arm or two, and a mid-level prospect for him. Today, Toronto did just that, acquiring the outfielder and three other pitchers in a complicated three-team deal that ultimately ended up with St. Louis receiving Edwin Jackson, Marc Rzepczynski, Octavio DotelCorey Patterson, and some players to be named. To get Jackson from the White Sox, Toronto first had to give up reliever Jason Frasor and decent prospect Zach Stewart, in addition to eating the $7.2m left owed to the disappointing Mark Teahen.

All of which got me thinking, could the Dodgers have done that? Forget the deal with the White Sox, because they wouldn’t have needed to first acquire Jackson, as Kuroda is the obvious fit there and is possibly a superior pitcher to Jackson anyway. (They’re both free agents at the end of the year, as well.) What’s the equivalent to Rzepczynski, Dotel, and Patterson? Javy Guerra, Mike MacDougal, and Tony Gwynn? Matt Guerrier or Scott Elbert instead, or in addition? I think we’d all have done that, right? But it’s not that simple. Perhaps the Cards did prefer Jackson to Kuroda. Perhaps Kuroda would have refused to waive his no-trade clause, as is sounding more and more likely. And that’s not even taking into account that Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos is a secret ninja who is awesome at his job, while Ned Colletti is Ned Colletti.

So no, we probably shouldn’t be that disappointed that Rasmus is headed north of the border, because he almost certainly was never in play for the Dodgers anyway. In fact, the closer we get to the deadline, the less likely I think it is that the Dodgers will make any kind of move, selling or buying. The team has won four in a row and 10 of 15, and while no one in their right mind can think that puts them in any sort of situation to contend (hooray, just 0.5 games back of Colorado for third place!), we’ve mostly known Colletti as the type to refuse to sell unless it is literally his only option. (Maybe that’s good, since Colletti’s mentor Brian Sabean is reportedly on the verge of selling his top pitching prospect, Zach Wheeler, to get two months of Carlos Beltran.)

It is something of an ill-timed winning streak, at least for those of us hoping to see some veterans moved, but as we’ve known for a while, this is also a club that doesn’t have a ton of valuable trading chips. With Kuroda sounding unlikely to agree to a trade anywhere, perhaps what we’ll see is the team standing pat, other than maybe some smaller deals for guys like Jamey Carroll or Rod Barajas that probably won’t bring back much. It may not be exciting, but as I suggested a few weeks ago, that might always have been the best option.

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Speaking of players who aren’t going anywhere (even if they should be), I have to admit I enjoyed the brief – extremely brief – Twitter freakout when Jon Paul Morosi and Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports teased a link to an article about the chances of Andre Ethier being moved. Turns out, it was much ado about nothing:

A trade of Andre Ethier by the Dodgers – while unlikely – isn’t completely out of the question.

Sources close to the Dodgers’ thinking said the odds of an Ethier trade are “very slim” and that general manager Ned Colletti “would need to be blown away” by an offer to move his right fielder.

The Red Sox have been looking for an outfield bat, and Ethier is a close friend of Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia, but sources say the teams haven’t had any serious discussions about an Ethier deal.

In general, though, Ethier fits the description of players who are typically discussed in July trades: His team is out of contention, and he will become a free agent after next season.

Ethier, a fan favorite in L.A., has an .815 OPS this year and made his second career All-Star appearance.

Wow! Thanks for the breaking news, guys.

 *****

Two more additions to the McCourt sin list: we’re now at 55.

Hiroki Kuroda’s Trade Possibilities

I’m back from a fun weekend away (no thanks to Delta and their six-hour delays, of course), and fortunately for us all, none of the trade possibilities we jokingly brought up last week came to fruition. Yet with each passing day, it seems more and more likely that Hiroki Kuroda will be on the move this week, possibly making his Wednesday start against the Rockies his final outing as a Dodger.

Of course, that’s all dependent on Kuroda waiving his no-trade clause, which is far from certain, though rumors that he would not go to the East Coast appear to have been overblown. He reportedly refused Ned Colletti’s request to provide a list of teams he’d be willing to go to, instead preferring to choose on a case-by-case basis, and ESPNLA’s Tony Jackson reports that even if Kuroda is willing to go somewhere, the Dodgers might not really want to trade him. I agreed with that stance about ten days ago, when I said that if trading Kuroda would only bring back some financial savings that could end up in the pockets of some bankruptcy lawyer or far-flung McCourt subsidiary, then it isn’t worth it – you might as well keep him to protect rotation depth (particularly Rubby De La Rosa) and improve your chances of re-signing Kuroda for 2012.

Still, the market for starting pitching is weak, particularly when you consider that the top names we’ve heard – Ubaldo Jimenez, James Shields, and Wandy Rodriguez – are very unlikely to be moved. It’s not that hard to consider Kuroda as the top available starting pitcher, and with more and more teams reportedly showing interest in the 36-year-old righty, the odds of getting something decent in return for him are improving. Let’s be careful to set expectations: I’m not talking about a top prospect superstud type. Kuroda’s a quality arm, but he’s not this year’s C.C. Sabathia or Cliff Lee. Two months of Kuroda probably won’t get you a franchise cornerstone, yet it should be enough to land you a quality prospect or two, and there’s value in that. (Particularly if the idea that Kuroda would go somewhere else and then come back to Los Angeles next year anyway has any merit to it, though if that means his acquiring team offered him arbitration that required the Dodgers to give up a draft pick to get him, then pass.)

So far, the teams that have popped up most often in rumors are the Tigers, Indians, Red Sox, Rangers and Yankees, with Ken Rosenthal specifically commenting on the Yanks earlier today. Let’s spitball some potential players of interest from each of those systems, shall we? Keeping in mind, of course, that I’m familiar with the top 5-10 prospects from most teams; often, these deals will also include lower-level guys that many of us haven’t heard of. As we all know, the Dodgers have absolutely zero depth at third base or behind the plate, so teams with players there have to be priority, though I don’t think it makes sense to turn down a solid pitching or outfield prospect if that’s the best deal.

Let’s also pretend for the moment that this won’t be a straight salary dump, in which case you can forget about just about anyone noted here.

Tigers. No, don’t even think about Jacob Turner, and also count out third baseman Nick Castellanos, who received a $3.45m bonus as a first round pick in 2010. Tigers blog Bless You Boys suggests that Detroit might be willing to part with 23-year-old power lefty Andy Oliver, who has struggled in brief MLB stints (23/21 K/BB, 25 ER in 31.2 IP) but entered the year as Baseball Prospectus‘ #3 prospect. Oliver looks to have solid strikeout stuff with some control issues; I can’t say he really excites me all that much, though for what Kuroda’s value really is, that’s probably a pretty good return.

Yankees. I don’t really have to tell you that Jesus Montero isn’t in play, right? That’s the case for pitchers Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances, too. If there’s one thing the Yankees have in spades (besides, you know, ungodly sums of cash), it’s catching prospects, as Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine are both coming up behind Montero. Sanchez is almost certainly too much for Kuroda, though I would consider getting Romine to be a huge win. I follow a ton of smart Yankee writers and fans on Twitter; many of them would not be happy with giving up Romine and instead suggested Huntington Beach native Kyle Higashioka behind the plate and 2B/3B Corban Joseph. Neither made BP’s Top 20 list, though that’s no surprise; like all of us, Yankee fans are overrating their own players just a bit. There’s also 23-year-old 3B/OF prospect Brandon Laird, who has 75 homers in parts of five MiLB seasons and just made his major league debut.

Red Sox. I’ve always liked catcher Ryan Lavarnway, hitting .372/.449/.752 in 36 AAA games, though his recent hot streak after being promoted probably means Kuroda alone won’t get him. There’s also the concern that Lavarnaway, a native of Burbank, doesn’t have the defensive chops to stay behind the plate, though it’s not like the Dodgers don’t have a big hole at 1B too. There’s also perhaps Yamaico Navarro, who has shown decent on-base skills in the minors while playing all over the infield. He’s done little in brief big-league stints, though he’s also quite blocked in Boston by Dustin Pedroia, Jed Lowrie, Kevin Youkilis, and Jose Iglesias (and for the moment, Marco Scutaro). Speaking of being blocked the Sox also have 22-year-old 3B Will Middlebrooks, Boston’s #11 prospect entering the season, who is having a big year in AA. I’d be thrilled to get either Lavarnway or Middlebrooks in a Kuroda deal.

Indians. I would be surprised if the Tribe took their surprising success this season seriously enough to trade for Kuroda, while their top two prospects – 2B Jason Kipnis and 3B Lonnie Chisenhall – would both be fantastic fits, they’ve each been promoted to Cleveland recently and aren’t being moved for Kuroda. (No, not even if you toss in Jamey Carroll, who Cleveland has reportedly been interested in re-acquiring.) The Indians aren’t in much better shape behind the plate than the Dodgers are – their top catcher, Alex Lavisky, has just a .251 OBP in A-ball this year – and I’m going to just stop talking about Cleveland right now, because it’s just not going to happen. (I don’t know, Cord Phelps, maybe.)

Rangers. My affinity for taking a lottery ticket on Chris Davis is well-known, though I would hope that isn’t the best the Dodgers can do. The Rangers have a ton of top prospects who we shouldn’t even dream on – Jurickson Profar, Martin Perez, etc – so we’ll have to keep this reasonable. I would live to get 3B Mike Olt, who has a solid glove and has shown good life with the bat, though it might be a bit much to ask Texas to trade a 2010 first rounder. Catcher Jorge Alfaro is probably too far away – he’s only 18 – as is Kellin Deglan, another 2010 first rounder.

Seems to me that the best outcome for the Dodgers is for Boston to step up to the plate. Their system has the best fit for the Dodger needs, they have a good history with accommodating Asian players, and whenever the Sox and Yankees bid for the same player, good things always happen for the seller. The main concern there is Theo Epstein convincing Ned Colletti that taking John Lackey in return is a great idea.

So there’s your most likely destinations… and then there’s Colby Rasmus, who I shouldn’t be wasting time thinking about, yet whom I can’t seem to get out of my mind. Reports that Rasmus and Tony LaRussa cannot coexist have been surfacing for nearly a year now, and it seems that the conflict is coming to a head.  Twice a Baseball America top-10 prospect, Rasmus’ .366 wOBA was second only to Carlos Gonzalez among NL CF in 2010, when he was just 23. The numbers this year haven’t quite been to that level as he’s struggled with a stomach injury and clashed with LaRussa, but a player with that talent at that age would be a nice get for any team, with rumors heating up that he may be headed to the White Sox.

It may seem that outfield is the least of the Dodger worries, with Jerry Sands and Trayvon Robinson on their way up to join with Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. Yet as we saw with Sands, there’s no guarantee that any prospect will immediately come up and contribute, and while Rasmus is under team control through 2014, Kemp and Ethier are both free agents after 2012. At the very least, he’d improve the offense while filling the left field black hole (no matter who ends up there, likely Ethier), but he’d also allow you to explore trading Ethier and/or protect you if one or both left as free agents. Sands could keep his first base glove handy, as well.

It’s almost certain not to happen, of course, but indulge me for a moment. The White Sox have reportedly made starting pitcher Edwin Jackson (a free agent after the season) or lefty reliever Matt Thornton available, along with prospects. Couldn’t the Dodgers beat that? Kuroda would be a given, of course. In the bullpen, perhaps the Cards would take a shot on Hong-Chih Kuo – when he’s right, no one is better – but hell, other than preferring to hang on to Kenley Jansen, give the Cards their pick. You want Kuo, Mike MacDougal, and Javy Guerra? Sure, why the hell not. Then for a prospect, perhaps one of the highly-touted pitchers who clearly have talent but have struggled to pull it together, like Chris Withrow or Ethan Martin. Kuroda, a reliever or two, and a prospect for Rasmus? You’re damned right I’d do that.

Oh, and finally, this: Rosenthal reports that the Pirates are nearing a crisis in the outfield now that Alex Presley is joining Jose Tabata on the injured list, and KABC’s Joe Block has a suggestion: Tony Gwynn. Gwynn has played well of late for the Dodgers, though his time as a starter may be growing short since Don Mattingly confirmed we’d be seeing Trayvon Robinson at some point this season (plus we expect Sands to return, too.) Gwynn’s trade value can’t be much, but turning a player who came in with zero value and has little future into anything of use would be outstanding.