Hiroki Kuroda Rumors

Yankees Notes: Cano, Grandy, Kuroda, Robertson

Ken Davidoff of the New York Post feels that the Yankees recent connections to Omar Infante and Brandon Phillips are perfect examples of why the team cannot afford to lose Robinson Cano. Davidoff writes that while both fallback options are fine players, neither is on Cano's level. The reason Cano can afford to make such seemingly outlandish contract demands, says Davidoff, is that he's dramatically better than alternative options. Here are some more Yankees-related links…

  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports doesn't think it makes sense for Curtis Granderson to accept a qualifying offer from the Yankees. Rosenthal points out that Granderson shares the exact same career OPS — .828 — that Nick Swisher carried into last offseason before signing a four-year, $56MM contract with the Indians. I agree with Rosenthal's take that Granderson can do much better than a one-year, $14.1MM deal on the open market, even with draft pick compensation attached.
  • Rosenthal also spoke with one GM who thinks that the threat of Hiroki Kuroda returning to the Hiroshima Carp will force the Yankees to make an offer more lucrative than the $14.1MM qualifying offer (Twitter link).
  • General manager Brian Cashman told Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News that the team isn't annointing David Robertson as the closer just yet. Cashman said he will consider all avenues of improving the team this winter, though he declined to comment on specific free agent relievers. The Yankees were connected to Grant Balfour yesterday.
  • History could give us a glimpse into the Yankees offseason plans, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. The Yankees could have as much as $90MM to work with (depending on the fate of Alex Rodriguez), and Cashman has prioritized strikeout pitchers and left-handed power bats in recent free agent spending sprees.

Yankees Make Qualifying Offers To Cano, Granderson, Kuroda

The Yankees made qualifying offers to Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, and Hiroki Kuroda, according to a team press release.

As the top free agent on the market, making the $14.1MM qualifying offer to Cano was a no-brainer and ensures the Yankees will at least receive a draft pick if he signs elsewhere.  Kuroda was considered likely to get a qualifying offer, after the 38-year-old posted a 3.31 ERA in 201 1/3 innings.  There is a chance he could accept, although that would be a mild pay cut from this year's $15MM.  

Granderson was the biggest question mark, after a couple of broken bones limited the slugger to 61 games this year.  Agent Matt Brown recently admitted to Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News there's "definitely a possibility" of his client accepting the offer.  I think Granderson will decline, however, as he can still do well in the free agent market with a draft pick attached.  Granderson has until 4pm central time on November 11th to decide whether to accept.

To keep track of all of today's qualifying offers, check out MLBTR's Free Agent Tracker and filter by Qualifying Offer Type.


New York Notes: Yankees, Cano, Ellsbury

As always, New York will be an interesting market to watch this season, highlighted by the Yankees' attempts to re-sign Robinson Cano and the Mets' desire to aggressively participate in the free agent market. Here's the latest on both teams, courtesy of Jon Heyman of CBS Sports and Andy Martino of the New York Daily News

  • The Yankees have already been linked to big fish like Masahiro Tanaka, Brian McCann, Shin-Soo Choo and Carlos Beltran, but Heyman adds that they've also had internal discussions about Jacoby Ellsbury, Matt Garza and Stephen Drew. As Heyman points out, Drew would be a peculiar target given Derek Jeter's $9.5MM player option for 2014.
  • According to Heyman, the Yankees are still the favorites for Cano, but there's a sizable gap between his eye-popping $305-310MM asking price and the Yankees' current thinking. Heyman says the Yankees have only shown a willingness to go to $160MM or so to this point.
  • According to Martino, no one from either camp has denied the fact that Cano's camp began negotiations by asking for $300MM+.
  • Martino adds that the Mets aren't likely to pursue Ellsbury on the free agent market, as his sources have indicated that GM Sandy Alderson simply isn't comfortable with the type of contract that Ellsbury will ultimately end up signing. Instead, expect the Mets to pursue trades and free agent signings of corner outfielders, as they're very pleased with Juan Lagares' glove in center field. This marks the second instance in the past six weeks or so in which we've heard specifically that the Mets aren't a likely match for Ellsbury.
  • General manager Brian Cashman worries that Hiroki Kuroda will return to Japan, writes Andy McCullough of the Star Ledger. He adds that one baseball official to whom he spoke would "be blown away" if Curtis Granderson didn't receive a series of lucrative offers on the open market despite his lost season.


Sherman’s Latest: Tanaka, Kuroda, Red Sox

On Friday it was reported that the Yankees are expected to be serious players for Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka. While many teams figure to be in the mix, the New York Post's Joel Sherman offered up a look at why the Yankees, specifically, will be motivated to sign Tanaka. Here are some of the highlights from Sherman's latest work…

  • The Yankees want to re-energize their fanbase and generate interest in buying tickets again, and adding Tanaka would allow them to do so without shattering the luxury tax threshold, as the posting fee wouldn't go against that figure. Sherman spoke with multiple executives who told him that each team is set to receive about $25MM from national TV revenue, and the Yankees also received a good chunk of money when News Corp. bought 49 percent of the YES Network. As Sherman puts it: "The Yanks have a big pile of newfound money to use lavishly for a posting bid."
  • Sherman also lists the Red Sox, Rangers, Giants, Diamondbacks and Blue Jays as suitors for Tanaka.
  • The Yankees may be extra-motivated to sign Tanaka due to the fact that many within the organization believe Hiroki Kuroda is leaning toward returning to Japan to finish his career.
  • In a separate piece, Sherman writes that Boston's decision on whether or not to tender qualifying offers to Jacoby Ellsbury, Stephen Drew, Mike Napoli and Jarrod Saltalamacchia will shape the market. Sherman spoke with four Major League executives — two from the AL and two from the NL — and asked about the Red Sox quartet's chances at receiving a qualifying offer. All four agreed that Ellsbury will receive one. Both AL execs and one of the NL expected Napoli to receive an offer, while just one of the NL execs thought that Drew and Saltalamacchia would get offers. Sherman offers his own expectation as well, predicting that all four will receive qualifying offers.

Free Agent Faceoff: Hiroki Kuroda vs. A.J. Burnett

This edition of MLBTR's Free Agent Faceoff will examine a pair of veteran right-handers coming off strong seasons that can potentially be had on a one-year deal in 2014 — Hiroki Kuroda and A.J. Burnett.

Kuroda, who turns 39 in Februrary, is coming off a second consecutive impressive season in the AL East. In spite of the hitters' paradise that is Yankee Stadium, Kuroda has posted strong — and nearly identical — seasons in 2012-13. Over that time, he's posted a 3.31 ERA with 6.8 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9, though his innings total in 2013 fell from 219 2/3 to 201 1/3. Kuroda has stranded runners at a rate that's well above the league average for each of the past three seasons, helping him to outperform some of his peripheral stats. Averaging between 91-92 mph on his fastball, Kuroda sits slightly above the league average in swinging-strike rate but relies more on his pristine command and plus ground-ball rate for success. In 2013, his splitter produced a 70.2 percent ground-ball rate, and his overall ground-ball rate from 2012-13 is a healthy 49.5 percent. Kuroda is very durable and hasn't been on the disabled list since 2009.

Burnett is two years younger than Kuroda, as he's set to turn 37 in January. Unlike Kuroda, Burnett relies heavily on the strikeout, having racked up 389 punchouts in 393 1/3 innings over the past two seasons. His 3.41 ERA since 2012 is very similar to Kuroda's, though doesn't have the same command; Burnett has walked three batters per nine innings over the past two seasons and was at 3.2 in 2013. He misses more bats (10.6% swinging-strike rate in 2013 compared to Kuroda's 9.9) and throws a bit harder (92.5 mph), relying on a curveball as his out pitch. Burnett is no slouch with ground-balls either and is actually at nearly 57 percent in that department since joining the Bucs. He missed four weeks with a calf strain this summer.

Both right-handers are getting up there in years, but both are clearly still effective. While some might prefer Burnett's relative youth and his swing-and-miss arsenal to Kuroda's sharper command, Kuroda's supporters will point to the fact that he's succeeding in one of the game's toughest divisions and toughest parks for pitchers. There's the possibility, of course, that one or both of these pitchers will retire this offseason. For the purposes of this post, let's assume that's not the case and ask the question…



Quick Hits: Humber, Kuroda, Indians, Mattingly

The Astros declined their option on Philip Humber earlier today, capping what has been yet another trying season for the 30-year-old former No. 3 overall pick. Despite his struggles, Humber told MLB.com's Brian McTaggart that he intends to keep playing: "I’m not hurt. I still enjoy coming to the park and I’m still relatively young. It’s one of those things that’s like, ‘Man, you walk away from it, are you going to look back and think I wish I could have kept going?’ There’s times in the past, I didn’t know if it was going to work out. It’s still fun. It beats working, you know?"

Here's more from around the league as the Rays celebrate a victory over the Indians, setting them up for a date with the Red Sox in the ALDS…

  • During a press conference yesterday, Yankees GM Brian Cashman told reporters (including Andy McCullough of the Star-Ledger) that he hopes Hiroki Kuroda will pitch for his team again in 2014. Cashman said that Kuroda was the Yanks' ace in 2013 but admitted that he wasn't sure what the future holds for the right-hander. McCullough quotes Kuroda as saying that while anything's possible, he hasn't given serious consideration to returning to Japan for his final season.
  • Indians CEO Paul Dolan deserves credit for sticking with team president Mark Shapiro and GM Chris Antonetti, writes Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The duo's presence helped lure manager Terry Francona to Cleveland, and Francona's presence helped to make the Indians a more attractive destination for free agents Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, Scott Kazmir, Jason Giambi and Ryan Raburn, adds Pluto.
  • Manager Don Mattingly says he's happy to be with the Dodgers and has no interest in the Yankees' job in the event that Joe Girardi doesn't return, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today.  It's possible that Mattingly could be available this winter as L.A. holds a $1.4MM club option on his contract for 2014.

Zach Links contributed to this post.


Free Agent Profile: Hiroki Kuroda

There are exceptions to almost every rule, and Hiroki Kuroda appears to be one of the exceptions to pitcher aging curves. At 38 years old, he's essentially having the same season he had as a 37-year-old, and the transition from the National League to the American League at age 37 barely fazed him. Kuroda will enter free agency as one of the most talented pitchers on the market.

Strengths/Pros

Kuroda is a ground-ball pitcher with plus command who misses bats at a slightly above-average rate. His career ground-ball rate is 49 percent, and he's at 46.9 percent in 2013. Only once has he turned in a ground-ball rate lower than the league average. He's adopted a sinker and two-seamer increasingly over the past few seasons as opposed to throwing a straight four-seam fastball.  Kuroda-Hiroki

Kuroda has averaged just 2.1 walks per nine innings in his career, and that figure has actually improved with each season in the American League despite the fact that he's facing designated hitters instead of pitchers. In terms of strikeouts, his 6.7 K/9 rate is below the league average but his 9.9 percent swinging-strike rate is above the league average. Kuroda appears to be a guy who can get strikeouts when he needs them but is content to trust his defense instead of punching out every hitter he faces.

As such, he's able to work deep into games. Kuroda has averaged at least 6 1/3 innings per start in each of the past three seasons. He averages 203 innings per season and should top 200 innings once again in 2013. He also won't require the long-term risk associated with top free agent starters like Matt Garza and Masahiro Tanaka.

Weaknesses/Cons

Kuroda does appear to be an exception, but history has conditioned us to believe that eventually, the bottom will drop out for a pitcher. Kuroda has been remarkably durable and effective in the AL East in his late 30s, but he will pitch next season at 39. Teams will be wary of his age, and his fastball velocity has declined slightly in each of the past three seasons.

The second half of the season also hasn't been kind to Kuroda. After a brilliant 2.65 ERA in 118 1/3 first-half innings, he's registered a more pedestrian 3.97 ERA following the All-Star break. It's fair to point out that his second-half struggles are likely tied to a bloated second-half BABIP, but that number is in part attributable to an increase in his line-drive rate in the second half.

Kuroda is also a candidate to receive a qualifying offer from the Yankees, which would put him in an undesirable situation. Teams showed great reluctance to part with draft picks for players on multiyear commitments last offseason. Would a team really be OK parting with a first-round pick for what will likely be a one-year deal for a 39-year-old pitcher?

Personal

Kuroda and his wife, Masayo, have two daughters: Hinatsu and Wakana. Kuroda's family currently resides in southern California. He is considered to be one of the hardest working players in Major League Baseball, in part due to the unthinkable disciplinary tactics he was subjected to in high school and college baseball in Japan (as profiled in this 2012 piece from David Waldstein of the New York Times). Kuroda's father, Kazuhiro, was a professional outfielder in Japan, playing for the franchise that is now the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks.

Market

Kuroda has said that he hasn't determined whether or not he'll pitch again in 2014, and even if he does return, it could be to his native Japan. For the purposes of this post, however, I'm operating under the assumption that he does return to the Majors for his age-39 campaign.

Kuroda could simply accept a qualifying offer from the Yankees, though doing so would mean giving the team a slight discount and taking an undeserved pay cut. He could also reject a qualifying offer and re-sign with the Yankees for a slight raise — perhaps $16MM or so — as he and agent Steve Hilliard of Octagon elected to do last season.

Kuroda also weighed a return to Japan last offseason and reportedly would have been happy to pitch in southern California where his daughters live and attend school. His preference does seem to be to pitch on a coast. Because a one-year deal is likely and he's coming off such a strong season, Kuroda seems highly likely to end up on a contending team.

Expected Contract

Kuroda will be one of the best free agent starters on the market and also the oldest. Another one-year deal seems likely if he is to return to Major League Baseball. He rejected a qualifying offer following last season, and it seems unlikely that he would accept one this offseason when it would mean taking a pay cut. As such, I expect Kuroda to reject a qualifying offer and ink a one-year deal worth $16MM, earning a slight raise from his 2013 salary following another strong year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


East Notes: Kuroda, Lee, Mets, Blue Jays

Yankees starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda hasn't decided whether he'll pitch in 2014, Anthony Rieber of New York Newsday reports (via Twitter). He might pitch in the U.S. or in Japan, and it's not impossible he could retire, either. Kuroda ranked sixth in Tim Dierkes' most recent Free Agent Power Rankings, and even though he'll turn 39 before the 2014 season starts, his ability to rack up high-quality innings makes him a valuable commodity. If he were to retire or return to Japan, that would put a significant dent in this offseason's free agent pitching market. Here are more notes from the East divisions.

  • Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee plans to retire after the 2016 season, Matt Gelb of the Inquirer reports (on Sulia). Lee's contract is guaranteed through 2015, and the Phillies have an option on his services for 2016. "I'm financially able to shut it down, so… that's how I feel right now," Lee says. "But when the time comes I might look at it differently."
  • The Mets will look for a veteran catcher to serve as Travis d'Arnaud's backup next season, Adam Rubin of ESPN New York tweets. Adding a veteran would also insure the Mets against the possibility that d'Arnaud gets hurt, Rubin notes. In mid-August, d'Arnaud took over for John Buck as the Mets' starting catcher.
  • The Blue Jays' disappointing season has left them well outside the playoff picture, but that doesn't mean their final series against the Rays is irrelevant, MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm writes. Right now, the Jays have baseball's seventh-worst record, tied with the Phillies, Rockies and Brewers. They're currently one game worse than the Mets and two worse than the Giants. That's significant, Chisholm points out, because the top ten picks in the draft are protected, meaning that if the Jays finish with one of baseball's ten worst records, they'll be able to pursue free agents who have been extended qualifying offers, and they won't have to worry about losing their first-round pick if they sign one. For example, the Indians had a protected first-round pick last season, which allowed them to keep the No. 5 overall pick (which they used on Clint Frazier) even after they signed Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn. The Indians did sacrifice their second-round and Competitive Balance Round B picks.

Cafardo On Kuroda, Zduriencik, Choo, Arroyo

The waiver trade deadline is one week away, meaning that teams have to work fast if they want to make an out-of-house upgrade for their playoff roster.  Will there be a flurry of moves to close out August?  “I doubt it,” one National League General Manager told Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. “There’s a lot more blocking going on this year.”  Here's more from today's column..

  • The Yankees increased Hiroki Kuroda’s salary from $10MM in 2011 to $15MM in 2012 and Cafardo wonders aloud if they'll have to tack on another $5MM to keep him in 2014.  One Yankees official said they need to do whatever they can to make that happen, as the right-hander, even at 39, would still be the best starting pitcher on the open market.  Kuroda has pondered retirement but a sizable deal like that could keep him in place.
  • Baseball people would be surprised if the Mariners replace Jack Zduriencik with one year remaining on his contract.  The feeling is the M's have some good young talent on the way and if Zduriencik can retain Kendrys Morales, Raul Ibanez, and Mike Morse, he has a chance to really make some progress.  Zduriencik raised some eyebrows when he held on to that trio this summer, but he believes he can re-sign a couple or all three.
  • It doesn’t appear that the Reds will have the finances to sign Shin-Soo Choo for the long term and the Mets, Yankees, Phillies, Cubs, and Red Sox could all have interest.  Industry sources told Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com last week that the Cubs are expected to make a run at Choo.  The outfielder ranks No. 5 on Tim Dierkes' 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings.
  • Speaking of the Reds, Bronson Arroyo probably won't be back with the club and a National League team like the Cardinals, Mets, or Braves would probably suit him.  Cafardo also notes that Cubs president Theo Epstein has an affinity for Arroyo.
  • Agent Scott Boras would like to see clients Stephen Drew and Jacoby Ellsbury re-sign with the Red Sox long term.  Naturally, he expects a vibrant market for both players.
  • A.J. Burnett could be a candidate to stay in with the Pirates, even though he's hinted about retirement.  If he goes elsewhere, it's hard to see him getting a long-term deal, but the Blue Jays could try to bring him back for the short term.  

West Notes: Affeldt, Wilson, Dodgers, Gonzalez, M’s

The Giants have lost left-handed reliever Jeremy Affeldt for four-to-six weeks after a MRI revealed a moderate strain of muscle and tendon in his left groin, reports Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. Jose Mijares will absorb most of Affeldt's innings, but CSNBayArea.com's Andrew Baggarly writes the Giants could, if history is any guide, look to acquire another lefty reliever. Baggarly notes it was nearly three years ago to the day Affeldt injured his oblique and GM Brian Sabean acquired Javier Lopez, an under-the-radar move which paid dividends as the Giants won the World Series. In other news and notes from MLB's West divisions:

  • While Affeldt's injury may change the calculus slightly, Baggarly, within that same article, sees the Giants continuing their quest for starting pitching. Manager Bruce Bochy loves Jake Peavy, but the two teams have not discussed a deal and the Giants don’t have the quantity or quality of trade chips to get a seat at the table, according to Baggarly.
  • Ex-Giants closer Brian Wilson is expected to begin showcasing his arm for teams within the next few weeks and the Giants have asked Wilson's representative to include them in the process, reports Schulman. Wilson underwent his second Tommy John surgery 15 month ago.
  • Dodgers GM Ned Colletti doesn't expect to make any franchise-altering deals prior to the Trade Deadline, according to Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times. "I don't know that that player is out there," Colletti said. "When I call around teams, there's not a lot of names of position players being discussed. I'm not sure if there's a market out there on the sell side."
  • Earlier today, we learned the Dodgers are prepared to offer Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez something in the neighborhood of $50MM over five years. Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com, however, tweets sources have told him the Dodgers' interest in the Cuban right-hander is not as fervent as has been portrayed. 
  • Manager Eric Wedge doesn't think the fourth-place Mariners, winners of six straight, will be active at the Trade Deadline, writes MLB.com's Greg Johns. "Unless it's something that raises the bar, I don't think we're going to do anything," said Wedge. "We're not going to move somebody just to move somebody." The Mariners have several veterans on one-year deals, who could be appealing to contenders, including left-handed reliever Oliver Perez, left-handed starter Joe Saunders, outfielder Raul Ibanez, first baseman Kendrys Morales, and shortstop Brendan Ryan.
  • Two years ago, the Dodgers had agreed to deals with both the Tigers and Red Sox for Hiroki Kuroda, but the right-hander invoked his no-trade clause to veto each trade. Through his interpreter, Kuroda provided FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal his rationale for refusing to join a team in the playoff hunt: if you only play for a team in August and September, it is not as meaningful as being with a club from Spring Training until the end of the season.