Scouting The Trade Market: Hiroki Kuroda

The RAB Radio Show: May 24, 2011
Sabathia primed for his best year in pinstripes
(AP Photo/Charles Cherney)

There were not many viable free agent alternatives to Cliff Lee this past offseason, so when Hiroki Kuroda took himself off the market in November, arguably the second best free agent pitcher was no longer an option for the Yankees. The Dodgers currently sport the third worst record in the National League, and their -43 run differential says they’ve been the third worst team in baseball overall. Owner Frank McCourt is in the process of being phased out by MLB whether he likes it or not, and there are legitimate concerns about his ability to make payroll within the next week or two.

Just because McCourt might not make payroll doesn’t mean Dodgers’ players will be up for grabs. MLB will foot the bill and further push McCourt out, but they showed last year with the Rangers that they’re willing to be flexible with payroll in situations like this. That’s not to say they’ll be buyers at the deadline, but they won’t necessarily have to sell off everything not nailed to the stadium concrete. The Dodgers have some strong starting pitchers they could shop, but Clayton Kershaw is as untouchable is gets and I doubt they’re looking to move Chad Billingsley just weeks after signing him to an extension.

The trade deadline is just over two months away, so let’s get a jump on things by looking at Hiroki Kuroda, one of those pitchers that might actually be up for grabs…

The Pros

  • Kuroda has been consistently excellent since coming over from Japan. His 3.94 FIP this year is the worst of his career, but that’s still a fine mark. His unintentional walk rate has hovered right around two men per nine over the last few years while batters have swung and missed at his offerings at least nine percent of the time in all four seasons of his MLB career.
  • He also generates a healthy amount of ground balls, 50.4% for his career and 47.3% in 2011. Unsurprisingly, that’s helped keep his homerun rate to a manageable 0.78 per nine.
  • Kuroda throws pretty hard, with both his four-seamer and two-seamer sitting sitting comfortably in the low-90’s. The former tends to creep up into the mid-90’s as the season goes along. A mid-80’s slider is his primary secondary offering, and he’ll use a mid-to-high 80’s splitter as a changeup. He also started mixing in some upper-70’s curveballs this year after learning a grip from YouTube.
  • It’s a short commitment at a reasonable salary, the definition of a rental. Kuroda signed a one-year deal worth $12M this past winter, but his salary is only $8M. The other $4M is a signing bonus that will be paid out from 2012-2013. He can earn another $500,000 in incentives, but that’s no big deal.

The Cons

  • Kuroda is not young; he turned 36 in February and he does have a bit of injury history. He spent two weeks on the DL with shoulder tendinitis in June 2008 and then missed ~100 total days of the 2009 season with an oblique strain (two weeks), a concussion (two months), and a neck sprain (two weeks). The concussion was the result a line drive to the head, so that’s a fluke thing we shouldn’t count against him. An ugly start over the weekend (5.2 IP, 6 R) apparently had to do with a cut on his finger.
  • Despite some gaudy swing-and-miss rates (10.0% career), Kuroda has only struck out 6.59 men per nine innings in his career (6.89 K/9 this year). Left-handed batters have also been a little tough on him, though it’s not a crazy split.
  • Kuroda has a full no-trade clause, and the fact that he agreed to re-sign with the Dodgers during the exclusive negotiating period this past offseason suggests that he’s not in a rush to leave town.

There’s no indication that the (soon to be) MLB-operated Dodgers are looking to sell of any players right now, but Kuroda is probably their only big money piece with trade value. He’s pitched just as well on the road as he has at pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium, and for what it’s worth his peripherals stats in eight interleague starts have been strong. Kuroda’s a power pitcher with playoff experience, and he’s been amazingly consistent in his three-plus years in the States. The Yankees haven’t had the best luck when it comes to Japanese starting pitchers, but Kuroda doesn’t carry the same risk as Hideki Irabu or Kei Igawa because he’s already made the transition to MLB and has proven himself to be an above-average starter. Now it’s just up to the Dodgers to put him on the market.

The RAB Radio Show: May 24, 2011
Sabathia primed for his best year in pinstripes
  • Gonzo

    The big question is what would it cost. I guess it depends on the other bidders too. With Dice-K rumored to be looking at TJS, if his Japanese treatment doesn’t work, would they be in the mix too? Who else would be a bidder?

    • Foghorn Leghorn

      I did see that Dice K went back to Japan but didn’t know it might be TJS…that makes to Sox Japanese pitchers with that same problem – Tazawa would be the other. If I were the sox brass, I’d be a bit gunshy with Japanese pitchers. That being said, anyone in the race that has pitching needs would have to consider a guy like Kuroda.

  • Stephen R.

    Glad to see someone joining me in my I Heart Hiroki campaign.

  • Klemy

    Would like this move, depending on the cost. What is the cost expectation to make something like this happen?

  • Ben Vinutti

    I wonder if the Yankees brass isn’t a little gunshy about Japanese pitchers, too, what with their experience with the “Fat Toad” and Kei “I’m not doing too bad in AA” Igawa….

    • Foghorn Leghorn

      ha! see my earlier comment. japanese pieces of crap!

  • Matt Imbrogno

    I did it in MLB ’11.

  • Kosmo

    Kuroda makes some sense if NY is looking for a SP come the trade deadline.Which would point to one or more of NYs starting 5 either being ineffective or disabled.
    I would rather stay within the org. with Noesi or Phelps or possibly a healthy Hughes.

    • ADam

      absolutely nothing more than Noesi and Melky Mesa… otherwise you gotta walk form this

      • Kosmo

        You would trade a young Noesi who could develop into a decent SP for a 36 yr old 2 month rental ? Interesting !

        • CMP

          I’d rather include Nova than Noesi who misses more bats and has a higher ceiling.

          • Jorge

            I actually wouldn’t trade either of them for a 36 year-old rental. Choose your pieces from other parts of the organization.

  • Fairweather Freddy

    Indeed Hughes could be our midseason acquisition if all goes well with his rehab. If not, I would rather have Brett Myers than Kuroda, depending on the cost

    • Mister Delaware

      Plus, if we make it to the World Series, Myers is a much better hitter. Get it? Hitter?

    • CMP

      Brett Myers has pretty much sucked this year so I’d be concerned that last year might have been a fluke.

  • Mister Delaware

    Kuroda is one of those guys where I imagine what I’d be cool with giving up is about 75% or less than what it would take to get him.

    • mbonzo

      You have to factor in what type of free agent he’ll become. (Type A or Type B) I worry about him pitching in the American League, and I’m not so sure he’d fair better than some of the pitching prospects who could be ready to go in June when you compare the amount of years they have. Would Kuroda give the Yanks that much more of a chance in the playoffs that’d we’d be willing to give up several cheap years from good pitching talent? I’d prefer if we were talking about Liriano. You’re giving up more, but at least the age and upside outweigh Kuroda’s positives. It all depends on Kuroda’s price, and while he’d be an upgrade over Garcia and Nova, I don’t think there is a big enough difference to justify what they’d ask for.

      • Mister Delaware

        Well, I have to factor in what type of free agent he’ll be and whether I want to risk $12MM+ if a 37 year old decides to accept arbitration. I don’t know that I like that gamble.

  • nolan

    what about John Danks? The White Sox have 6 starters at the moment. Danks is a very good, young lefty who we could lock up long term if he pitches well. Thoughts?

    • Tim

      Yeah. That would be EXPENSIVE. Like Banuelos expensive, to start.

      • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        Seconded. I’ve removed Danks from my radar. Trader Kenny will probably make all of his Sox starters available (with the possible exception of Buerhle, who Reinsdorf make preclude from discussion due to 10/5 and team icon status), but Floyd and Danks will only be available for a modest haul (and Danks probably wouldn’t even be modest).

        Edwin Jackson is the one we can probably get without giving up a true blue-chip prospect, due to Jackson’s impending free agency.

  • jaremy

    I’d rather have Liriano

    • Wil Nieves Number 1 Fan

      I’d rather have a 1994 Ford Taurus.

    • Tim

      And I’d rather have Roy Halladay and Felix Hernandez. But you won’t get Liriano without giving up A LOT. Kuroda is much more reasonably priced, presumably, and the actual performance difference isn’t nearly as much as you might think.

  • Andrew Brotherton

    I think John Danks or Hiroki Kuroda or Chris Carpenter will be our targets this trade deadline. Possibly I could see a deal for Beltran as well if they decide to give him away.

  • Jimmy

    We need some hitting

  • SRB

    Let’s see- an old Japanese rental- how about a transistor radio instead?!

  • aluis

    Justin Upton not anothet pitcher!

  • Reggie C.

    I’m pretty sure this isnt an open thread to just throw out names of players you’d like to see in pinstripes.

    Anyways … I imagine the Kuroda derby would materialize fairly quick if Cashman started exchanging names with the Dodgers. The RS would be right there and since nobody is giving up a top 5 prospect for a 2 month rental, multiple contenders would have a shot.

    I have no idea what it’d take to trump other teams’ offers. I’m thinking Cashman would have to part with a Nova and JR Murphy (B level position player prospect) to beat out most clubs.

  • nsalem

    The perception that Garcia gets eaten alive by good offensive teams is not true. He has been beaten up by The Sox in his last couple of starts. He also held the Yankee’s to one earned run and 5 hits in 7 innings last year, He has beaten The Rangers in his last 3 starts yielding 2 or 3 runs in 6 and 7 inning appearances. He has also held The Rays to 2 runs in 7 innings last year when they were a playoff team.
    Plenty of good pitchers have been massacred by the Red Sox. The “Freddy gets eaten alive rants” which are repeated ad nauseam on this site remind me of the agenda ridden political ravings which are repeated over and over, until the ill-informed believe it to be true.