Hiroki Kuroda Rumors

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.

AL East Notes: Granderson, Kuroda, Blue Jays, Carp

The Yankees and the then-Kansas City Athletics swung a 13-player trade on this day in 1957, a deal that brought future Yankee regulars Clete Boyer, Bobby Shantz and Art Ditmar to the Bronx.  This was one of many lopsided trades between the Yankees and A's during the 50's, as Kansas City owner Arnold Johnson's past business ties to the Yankees seemingly paved the way for several deals that saw the Yankees acquire promising young talents from the A's for virtually nothing of note in return.  Boyer's case was especially controversial since the A's admitted they originally signed him in 1955 on the Yankees' behalf and dealt him to New York as soon as he gained minor league eligibility.

Here's the latest from around the AL East…

  • Curtis Granderson says he wants to stay with the Yankees past 2013 but "all indications are the Yankees are inclined to bid farewell" to the outfielder, ESPN New York's Wallace Matthews writes.  The Yankees aren't impressed by Granderson's declining non-power numbers and defensive value, plus the team wants to put its money towards re-signing Robinson CanoMLBTR's Tim Dierkes didn't include Granderson as one of the top 10 available free agents next winter but noted that Granderson's stock could rise with a big season.
  • Hiroki Kuroda said it was a "hard" decision to re-sign with the Yankees but he feels he made the right one since he enjoys the Yankees' veteran clubhouse, MLB.com's Bryan Hoch reports.  Kuroda said he weighed offers from other teams, including the Dodgers, but noted that he didn't consider pitching in Japan.  "Actually, I have never said that I want to play in Japan at this stage of my career," Kuroda said. "I don't know; maybe it's the Japanese media that's talking about it.  What I have said is that if I'm going back, I'm going to play for my former team, the Hiroshima Toyo Carp. I haven't thought about that at this stage. Who knows? I may end my career at the end of this year."
  • The Blue Jays have taken several out of options players on the Opening Day roster in recent years to see what value these players had left, but the team says they won't employ that tactic this year, MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm reports.  The Jays have six out of options players in camp, and Chisholm doubts Toronto would let Brett Cecil hit the waiver wire.
  • Fangraphs' J.D. Sussman breaks down the comparisons between Blue Jays pitching prospect Aaron Sanchez to Mets prospect Noah Syndergaard, who was traded by Toronto to New York as part of the R.A. Dickey deal.
  • The Red Sox could possibly obtain Mike Carp from the Mariners in exchange for Alfredo Aceves, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe opines.  The Sox are one of several teams interested in Carp, though Aceves' trade value may be minimal thanks to his off-the-field behavior.

SoCal Links: Walden, Angels, Fujikawa, Field, Kuroda

The Angels finalized their contract with Ryan Madson today, but here's some more out of Southern California…


AL East Notes: Hale, Swisher, Kuroda, Orioles

It was on this day in 1977 that Rich "Goose" Gossage signed a six-year, $2.75MM free agent contract with the Yankees.  The Goose lived up to that then-exorbitant deal, posting a 2.10 ERA and saving 150 games over those six seasons, notching three top-five finishes in Cy Young Award voting and helping New York win the 1978 World Series.  Gossage went into the Hall Of Fame as a Yankee in 2008.

Here's the latest from New York and elsewhere in the AL East…

  • DeMarlo Hale is "likely" going to be the Blue Jays' next bench coach, a source tells MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli (Twitter link).  Hale served as the Orioles' third base coach in 2012 and was interviewed as a managerial candidate by the Jays two years ago before Toronto hired John Farrell.  Hale's contract may be for three years, reports MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko.
  • The Red Sox have Nick Swisher "on their radar," a source tells George A. King III of the New York Post.  At least seven teams are known to be interested in Swisher, whose ability to switch-hit and play both first base and right field is a boon to many clubs.  King hears from an industry source who believes Swisher could find a four-year, $60MM contract, though with that many teams and big markets in the running, it wouldn't surprise me to see that number jump to between $65-$70MM in guaranteed money.
  • Other teams were offering Hiroki Kuroda more expensive and longer-term deals with player options than the one-year, $15MM contract he signed with the Yankees, reports Wallace Matthews of ESPN New York.  Kuroda took the relatively smaller deal with New York due to his familiarity with the city and his desire to keep his options open next winter for a possible return to Japan.  Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link) notes that Kuroda has left money on the table for each of the four contracts he's signed in his Major League career.    
  • The Orioles were interested in Jonny Gomes but are "not too heartbroken" that Gomes has signed with Boston, reports Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun.  The O's prefer to use the money earmarked for Gomes to re-sign Nate McLouth instead.
  • In AL East news from earlier today, Josh Johnson's agent Matt Sosnick discussed the possibility of his client signing an extension with the Blue Jays.

Quick Hits: Figgins, Lohse, Hamilton, Kuroda

It was on this day in 1995 that Joe Girardi first became a Yankee, as the Bronx Bombers acquired the catcher from the Rockies in exchange for right-hander Mike DeJean.  Girardi won three World Series titles in his four seasons with the team as a player and won another championship as the team's manager in 2009.  Here are some items from around the majors…


Yankees Sign Hiroki Kuroda

The Yankees have retained their most consistent starter from 2012 as the club has announced that it has re-signed Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year contract.  ESPN's Buster Olney reports that Kuroda's contract is worth $15MM (plus incentives worth less than $1MM) and was the first to break the news that Kuroda had agreed to terms with New York (Twitter links).  Kuroda is represented by the Octagon agency.

I am very happy and excited to re-sign with the Yankees,” said Kuroda.  “I am very grateful for all of the interest and all of the offers that I received from the various teams that courted me.  It was a tough decision for me to make, but at the end of the day, I wanted to try to win a championship with the teammates that I went to battle with last season.”

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Kuroda was seen as fairly likely to re-sign with New York entering the offseason, and indeed, it was reported earlier today that the Yankees were "very confident" about their chances of retaining the Japanese veteran.  MLBTR's Tim Dierkes ranked Kuroda as the ninth-best free agent on the market this winter and correctly predicted that he would re-sign with the Yankees. 

The righty did turn down a one-year, $13.3MM qualifying offer from the Yanks a few weeks ago, assuming (correctly) that he could find a richer deal on the open market.  Kuroda's list of suitors included such MLB teams as the Red Sox, Angels and Dodgers, plus Japanese teams, as Kuroda has said that he would like to eventually finish his career by returning to pitch in his native country.

After four years with the Dodgers, Kuroda signed a one-year, $10MM free agent contract with the Yankees last January and made a strong transition to the AL East, posting a 3.32 ERA and 3.27 K/BB ratio in 33 starts.  Kuroda turns 38 years old in February but seems to be as durable as ever, pitching a career-best 219 2/3 innings in 2012.  His return will bring some stability to a Yankee rotation that has a lot of question marks given CC Sabathia's recent injury problems, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova's up-and-down performances and Andy Pettitte again considering retirement. 

Photo courtesy of Anthony Gruppuso/US Presswire