Free Agent Stock Watch: Hiroki Kuroda

Dodgers right-hander Hiroki Kuroda has established himself as a top-of-the-rotation starter in three-plus Major League seasons since coming over from Japan. With a respectable career strikeout rate (6.6 K/9), fine control (2.2 BB/9) and the ability to induce ground balls (roughly 50%), Kuroda should draw interest as one of the better pitchers in what looks to be a so-so class of free-agent hurlers this offseason, including C.J. Wilson, Edwin Jackson, Mark Buehrle, Chris Carpenter and Joel Pineiro.

Because of Kuroda's age, his seeming affinity for Los Angeles and the Dodgers' uncertain financial standing, it'll be interesting to see how his second foray into free agency in as many years plays out. Kuroda, who will turn 37 in February, signed a one-year, $12MM pact with the Dodgers in November 2010. I think that was a relatively modest deal considering Kuroda was coming off his best (and healthiest) season, but it did include a full no-trade clause, and Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reported that Kuroda didn't even entertain offers from other clubs before re-signing with the Dodgers.

The Dodgers probably won't be big spenders so long as they are being managed by MLB, and it's uncertain when the team will be sold. However, Kuroda has already shown a willingness to exchange cash (and perhaps years) for security. Assuming he remains happy in Los Angeles, I could see him taking a similar deal with the Dodgers this offseason. If he chooses to test the market, or if the team wishes to go in another direction, I think he could probably find a two-year deal at a similar annual salary, likely without the benefit of a blanket no-trade.

Of course, considering his age, there's always the chance Kuroda could simply call it a career or return to NPB, where a couple of clubs were reportedly interested in his services last offseason.


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