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Hiroki Kuroda Rumors
The Padres made a “serious push” to sign Hiroki Kuroda before the former Yankees pitcher decided to return to the Hiroshima Carp, Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes. One report out of Japan indicated that the Padres offered $18MM, a figure a team source tells Sanders was a bit high.
Adding Kuroda would have continued a remarkable Padres offseason that has also featured the additions of Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Wil Myers and Derek Norris. Kuroda would presumably have joined the Padres’ rotation along with Andrew Cashner, Ian Kennedy, Tyson Ross and Odrisamer Despaigne, although, as Sanders suggests, signing Kuroda might have been the prelude to yet another trade for busy Padres GM A.J. Preller.
Kuroda, 39, remained reliable in 2014, posting a 3.71 ERA with 6.6 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9 in 199 innings with New York. Sanders notes that new Padres front office hire and former Dodgers scouting director Logan White was a key to Kuroda signing with the Dodgers when Kuroda arrived in the US prior to the 2008 season.
Baseball’s competitive balance is the top takeaway from the 2014 season, opines MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince. Parity can be defined in many ways, Castrovince notes, but what cannot be ignored is no team has won 100 games since 2011, three division winners in 2014 (Angels, Nationals, and Orioles) were not in the playoffs the year before, and the World Series featured a pair of Wild Card clubs. Castrovince lists a greater reliance on young talent, revenue sharing, TV money, and draft and international spending limits as reasons for the competitive balance never being stronger.
Elsewhere around baseball:
- The Mariners‘ payroll isn’t keeping pace with payroll increases throughout the game, Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times argues. The Mariners spent $93MM in 2010 and had the 14th highest payroll in the game, but because of salary inflation since then, their $109MM 2014 payroll only put them at 16th. The Mariners did add Nelson Cruz this offseason, but Baker feels their outfield would have benefited from another bat, like Melky Cabrera, Justin Upton or Matt Kemp, any of whom would have put a dent in their payroll. The Mariners have financial benefits a team like the Royals doesn’t have, Baker says, and their spending shouldn’t be in MLB’s bottom half.
- The Tigers have not discussed an extension with David Price this offseason, FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi notes. That indicates it’s still possible they could sign free agent Max Scherzer and deal Price (Twitter links).
- It sounds like pitcher Hiroki Kuroda is ready to finish his career as a member of the Hiroshima Carp, which would rule out an eventual MLB return. The veteran told Sanspo (Japanese link) his return should be “the last decision of his baseball life,” according to Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker (on Twitter).
- Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune sees Takashi Toritani filling two roles for the Padres: a reliable, experienced defender at shortstop and a legitimate leadoff bat from the left side. The Padres’ interest in the Japanese infielder, who is an unrestricted free agent, was reported yesterday.
- The Padres have become relevant again with their series of moves by new GM A.J. Preller making the collection of MLB California franchises the best in the game, writes Lyle Spencer of MLB.com.
- The Indians prefer to round out their roster through trades rather than free agency and could deal from their surplus of relievers and middle infielders (excluding Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez), reports Paul Hoynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group.
Hiroki Kuroda recently opted to return to the Hiroshima Carp in Japan, but the move doesn’t appear to be a shock to the Yankees, Brendan Kuty of NJ.com writes. The team already re-signed Chris Capuano and traded for Nathan Eovaldi, suggesting that the Yankees either knew Kuroda wasn’t coming back or didn’t want to wait for him. Here’s more from the AL East.
- The Orioles have lost Andrew Miller, Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis and haven’t done much this offseason to make up for those departures, but their winter would have been much worse if they hadn’t re-signed J.J. Hardy, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com writes. Kubatko suggests that Hardy could have gotten more than the three years and $40MM he received from the Orioles if he’d hit the open market.
- The Orioles are one of a number of teams that have had quiet offseasons, Andrew Simon of Sports On Earth writes. Despite the departures of Miller, Cruz and Markakis, the O’s might come out fine, as they could easily get more from Manny Machado, Chris Davis and Matt Wieters next season. But they probably still ought to add an outfielder, whether that’s a free agent like Nori Aoki or Colby Rasmus, or a trade acquisition like Marlon Byrd of the Phillies or one of a number of Padres outfielders.
- Catcher David Ross recently agreed to a two-year deal with the Cubs, rebuffing the Red Sox and Padres, and Rob Bradford of WEEI.com provides an interesting chronicle of those negotiations. The Red Sox didn’t want to go to two years for Ross, and Jon Lester‘s decision to sign with Chicago rather than Boston might have had some effect on the Cubs’ willingness to commit to more years for Ross. Ross told the Red Sox he would sign with the Cubs, but then the Padres made a strong offer, which Ross told his agent they would discuss after he worked out. By the time that workout ended, the Padres had traded Ryan Hanigan to Boston, and there was also a report that Ross and the Padres had agreed to terms. “I couldn’t believe it,” says Ross, who ended up honoring his commitment to the Cubs. Ross adds that the level of interest in him took him by surprise after he hit just .184/.260/.368 in 50 games last season.
Veteran righty Hiroki Kuroda is returning to the place where he made his name: the Hiroshima Toyo Carp of Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league.
Soon to turn 40 years of age, Kuroda remains every bit as sturdy and effective as ever. Since coming to the big leagues from NPB back in 2008 — his age-33 season — Kuroda has never ended a season with an ERA over 3.76. In seven MLB campaigns, he owns a 3.45 ERA with 6.7 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9.
Of course, Kuroda had entire separate career in Japan before he came stateside. He broke in at age 22 and threw 11 seasons, all with Hiroshima. His numbers there looked quite similar to his big league marks: 3.69 ERA with 6.7 K/9 against 2.4 BB/9.
Kuroda will no doubt take a significant pay cut to return to the Carp, but he has the luxury to choose his destination at this point in his career. He ultimately earned a total of $88.3MM over his time in the big leagues, mostly through short-term deals as he continually chose to keep his options open rather than committing to a lengthy pact.
Though Kuroda was of course free to sign with any team, it had long been thought that he would be choosing between the Yankees, NPB, and retirement. In that respect, today’s move resonates most in New York, as the Yanks are left with a rotation full of durability questions.
For the rest of the starting pitching market, the news should have relatively little effect. Most of the quality mid-level starters have already found new homes, and Kuroda likely had a narrow range of suitors.
Jim Allen of Kyodo News tweeted that the Carp had announced the signing; Japanese media outlets Nippon and Chugoku Shimbun first reported that Kuroda was set to return to NPB.
The Yankees are still working to address several needs, and Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the team is working to allocate limited budget space in so doing. Should New York go to a fourth year for Headley, the team’s interest would likely not go beyond $44MM to $48MM, Sherman says.
Were the team to strike a multi-year deal with third baseman Chase Headley, it may need to “bottom fish” to add a starter, says Sherman. Alternatively, then, the team could look to rely on Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela in the infield while looking to make a more significant addition for the rotation.
As for the rotation, the Yankees are disinclined to give even a third year to Brandon McCarthy, given his injury history, per Sherman. That could be a non-starter, of course. Otherwise, short-term options like Edinson Volquez are more likely. There remains a possibility of bringing back Hiroki Kuroda, Sherman adds.
- Acquiring a shortstop is atop Cashman’s list, but he says, “I think it’s a limited market to be honest, and I say limited in terms of availability and acquisition cost.” Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News has a source saying that beyond Troy Tulowitzki, the Yankees are “kicking the tires” on the Rangers’ Elvis Andrus and the Phillies’ Jimmy Rollins. “I don’t think this past season reflects what his true ability is,” said Cashman of free agent Stephen Drew, and the GM has already spoken with Drew’s agent. Beyond Drew, Feinsand says the Yanks don’t seem inclined to pay up for Hanley Ramirez and Asdrubal Cabrera and Jed Lowrie aren’t high on their list.
- The Yankees have had “a brief conversation” with Chase Headley and “we’re certainly looking forward to continuing the dialogue,” says Cashman. Given doubts about Alex Rodriguez‘s ability to play third base every day in 2015, the Yankees are making a “strong push” to sign Headley, according to Wallace Matthews of ESPNNewYork.com.
- Cashman thinks Hiroki Kuroda is going through his standard post-season “mental cleansing process” and will soon make a decision about whether or not he wants to return in 2015. Cashman would “be surprised if he doesn’t play,” though isn’t sure if Kuroda will pitch in MLB or Japan.
- Cashman will speak with David Robertson‘s agent during the GM Meetings, and was hesitant to discuss the Yankees’ closer situation until those talks had taken place. “I would have no clue what [Robertson’s] market value is going to be,” Cashman said. “Certainly, they’ll have an idea. They turned down the qualifying offer based on a lot of parameters, I’m sure, [and] some discussions they’ve already had. It’s hard to tell.“
- Two of the club’s statistical analysts pushed Cashman to re-sign Chris Young. “They felt, from an analytical standpoint, his year wasn’t as bad as it played out, that there was a potential bounce-back situation with it. We signed him up on what we think is a fair-market value, fourth-outfielder type contract,” Cashman said.
- Young’s signing may be the last outfield-related move the Yankees make this winter. “I think right now, we’re kind of settled in the outfield unless something surprising happens in the case of a trade, which I wouldn’t anticipate,” Cashman said. As Bloom notes, this would seem to close the book on any chance of Ichiro Suzuki re-signing with New York.
MLBTR would like to send its deepest condolences to the friends and family of former Major League left-hander Brad Halsey, who died tragically in a climbing accident near his Texas home, as Bob Nightengale of USA Today writes. Halsey, just 33, spent three seasons in the Majors with the Yankees, Diamondbacks and A’s from 2004-06. He was one of three players traded from the Yankees to Arizona to acquire the legendary Randy Johnson.
As we keep the family and loved ones of Brad in our thoughts, here are a few notes from around the game…
- Hiroki Kuroda has yet to decide whether he wants to return for the 2015 season, tweets Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. At this point, Kuroda is weighing one more season in the Majors, one more season in Nippon Professional Baseball or retirement.
- Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez has recovered from knee surgery and will pitch in a winter league this year as he gears up for a comeback, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Rodriguez, who turns 36 in January, pitched just 26 2/3 innings for the Pirates this season before being released. He underwent knee surgery roughly a month later and said at the time that he had received some interest from other clubs. However, he preferred to correct a lingering issue in his knee that had been hindering him, in an effort to be as best-prepared as possible for the 2015 season.
- The Associated Press reports that Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera was charged with resisting arrest after police stopped him for suspicion of driving under the influence of marijuana. While DUI charges are not planned, according to the report, Cabrera was cited for possession of marijuana in the car and could face up to a year in jail if convicted of a misdemeanor.
- The Phillies have no plans to move Cody Asche off of third base at this time, MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki writes. While the idea of trying Asche in the outfield has been kicked around within the organization, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said the team decided at last week’s organizational meetings that Asche will remain at the hot corner. The plan next season is to platoon Asche and Maikel Franco if the team cannot move Ryan Howard this offseason. It seems that at some point, Asche or Franco will have to move off the position, but Amaro told Zolecki the team views both as third basemen right now. “Maikel Franco is a third baseman who plays some first base,” said Amaro.
Teams have until 4pm CT today to issue one-year, $15.3MM qualifying offers to impending free agents. If the offer is turned down, a team would receive a compensatory first round pick in the 2015 draft if their free agent signed elsewhere. MLBTR will report on all of the qualifying offers when they’re officially issued and you can stay quickly updated via MLBTR’s Free Agent Tracker. Here’s the latest QO buzz, with the newest items at the top of the post…
- The Braves have told Ervin Santana that he will receive a qualifying offer, a source tells MLB.com’s Mark Bowman. The move was expected given Santana’s good 2014 season, and it will be interesting to see how Santana fares in free agency this offseason given how the QO playing a role in limiting his market last winter. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes predicts Santana will find a four-year, $56MM deal this time around.
- The Yankees “don’t seem especially likely” to make Hiroki Kuroda a qualifying offer, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman writes, though the club hasn’t yet made a final decision about what to do with the 39-year-old righty. Heyman doesn’t think a rival team would give up a draft pick to sign Kuroda to a one-year deal worth more than $15.3MM, so if the Yankees did issue the QO, it could limit Kuroda’s market. Kuroda could also retire or return to Japan, making the qualifying offer scenario moot.
- Also from Heyman, there is no doubt the Dodgers will make Hanley Ramirez a qualifying offer even if Andrew Friedman and Ramirez’s agent both aren’t commenting on the matter.
Here’s the latest out of the game’s eastern divisions:
- Phillies hurler Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez will have a chance to start next spring, reports Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. “The plan for him is to try to get him to the point where he’s a starter again and to put him in the mix for us next year,” said GM Ruben Amaro Jr., who said it remains to be seen whether he’ll earn a role. “I don’t know, but we have starter deficiencies and we have holes there and we’d like to put him in a position where he can at least compete for a spot,” Amaro explained.
- Meanwhile, the Phillies announced a significant front office change: assistant GM Marti Wolever, who ran the team’s amateur scouting efforts, will not be back next year. As MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki writes, Philadelphia has had some positives but also some notable negatives in converting drafted players into big league production. Of course, some of the young players that Wolever brought in were ultimately dealt away before they were able to contribute for the Phils. More front office turnover could well be coming, says Zolecki.
- Mets assistant GM John Ricco says that the club has flexibility due to its array of young arms, as Matt Ehalt of the The Record reports. “We’ll look at it and decide if we feel we can move one or more starters in a deal to fill out other areas on the team that are not as deep,” said Ricco. “It’s not a bad situation to be in. As you look around the league and see the injuries to pitchers, it’s a reminder of how many guys you do need.”
- While he remains undecided on his future, Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda left the impression that he could be leaning away from playing in the big leagues next year. As MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch reports, Kuroda spoke like someone who will need to be convinced to return: “Right now, I cannot imagine what the answer is going to be,” he said. “I’m just relieved I was able to finish the season without getting hurt. If — and this is a big if — there are such talks, then I’d have to ask myself and think deeply whether I’d be able to produce.” Soon to be 40, Kuroda has not been quite as excellent as he was over his first two years in New York, but has nevertheless been plenty productive with 199 frames of 3.71 ERA baseball.
FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal has a new, lengthy notes column in which he begins by examining the early scrutiny of MLB's new instant replay system. He points to a pair of blatantly missed calls on Saturday in which conclusive evidence was seen on TV broadcasts of the games but apparently not by the umpires at MLB's Replay Operations Center in New York. An MLB spokesperson confirmed to Rosenthal that one of those calls was blown and added that the system would continue to work on improvement. Rosenthal reminds that John Schuerholz, one of the architects of the system, said it would be a three-year roll out. However, he adds that MLB can't expect any patience from fans, players or managers when home viewers are able to make better judgments than the umpires at the Relay Operations Center.
Here are some more highlights from his article, which also contains notes on Jose Abreu, struggling offenses around the league and the Dodgers' interleague schedule…
- Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson is the early front-runner for "first manager to get fired" due to the team's 4-11 start, but Rosenthal wonders what more Gibson can do with the pitching talent (or lack thereof) he has been given. GM Kevin Towers thinned out the rotation depth by trading Tyler Skaggs and David Holmberg this offseason, and the loss of Patrick Corbin compounded those moves. Rosenthal wonders how long the Snakes can wait before recalling Archie Bradley.
- One executive said to Rosenthal that any American League team with a need in the infield will have added incentive to work out a deal with Stephen Drew in order to prevent the Tigers from signing him. The AL Central powerhouse is currently going with Alex Gonzalez at short, and the results have been less than stellar.
- Yankees right-hander Hiroki Kuroda told Rosenthal (through his interpreter) that he's never considered retirement as heavily as he did this offseason. The most difficult factor for Kuroda wasn't the separation from his L.A.-based family — they come live with him in the summer when his daughters are out of school — but rather that he simply loves and misses Japan. Kuroda again left open the possibility of finishing his career back in Japan.
- Both the Angels and Twins have a need in the outfield with the likes of Josh Hamilton, Oswaldo Arcia and Josh Willingham on the disabled list, and both teams were interested in the recently DFA'ed Sam Fuld this offseason before he signed with the Athletics. Rosenthal reports that the A's will gauge trade possibilities for Fuld and wonders if the Halos and Twins could have interest.
- After signing a minor league deal in the 2012-13 offseason, Blue Jays right-hander Neil Wagner earned the pro-rated portion that deal's $525K salary while in the Majors last season. However, Toronto's pre-arbitration pay scale called for just a $506,250 salary in 2014, as it is based on service time rather than performance. Agent Jim Munsey and Wagner refused the deal, giving Toronto the freedom to renew Wagner's contract at $500K if they wished, which the team did. Said Munsey of the ordeal: "It's, obviously, disappointing that they cut Neil's pay after such a good season last year. And when we didn't agree to the pay cut, they cut it further in renewing him. Hard to cheer for that. … The rules allow the Jays to reduce his pay. They also allow us to talk about that at arbitration." MLBTR's Zach Links recently looked at teams' calculation of pre-arbitration salaries.
- Though the Rays' rotation has been ravaged by injuries to Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore and Alex Cobb, the team is planning on using internal options rather than pursuing outside help.