In a bit of news that really shouldn’t’ be all that shocking, Hiroki Kuroda, through one of his friends has indicated that he is leaning toward either the Los Angeles Dodgers or Los Angeles Angels for next season instead of returning to the New York Yankees according to an ESPN Los Angeles report.
Kuroda has two elementary school-aged daughters who are residing in Southern California which is now (or always was) playing a part in the right-hander’s decision. For Kuroda, both L.A. teams have the budget to spend enough to match the Yankees on a one-year contract and can go one step better with a two-year deal. Obviously, the desire to be closer to home is a major factor for any player, especially one who is rounding out his career like Kuroda. The Yankees should be concerned, but this is not exactly a foregone conclusion.
Both the Dodgers and the Angels have the financial ability to go after younger starting pitchers who will fit their plans for years to come. Kuroda, while a very consistent and durable pitcher over the years, will be 38 in 2013 and his age makes his signing a risk for any team. The Dodgers and Angels, just like the Yankees, are focusing long term with every move. If either of the two L.A. teams can land Zack Greinke for example, they would surely invest in that direction over Kuroda.
There are also some younger free agent pitchers in the market — Anibal Sanchez, Edwin Jackson and Shaun Marcum to name a few — who could provide the Dodgers or Angels a better investment in the long term should Greinke sign with one or the other or elsewhere. This is something the Yankees must hope for or else they will need to turn their attention to a thin market for starters with Kuroda’s abilities and who possess the willingness to take a one-year deal which the team so desperately wants with the 2014 competitive balance tax looming.
It’s amazing that Kuroda has become a major key to the Yankees offseason plans considering how he was considered a filler piece when signed in Dec. 2011. Yankees fans should understand that it won’t be the end of the 2013 season if the team is unable to secure Kuroda’s services. Sure, it will force general manager Brian Cashman to get more creative than he already has to be under the 2014 payroll circumstances, but if Kuroda walks it is not for a lack of the Yankees interest and there are plenty of ways to spend the $15-16 million they will save by not signing Kuroda. That’s a sizable amount of money that could help in other areas and make the team better.
Maybe the Yankees figure out a way to work a trade for a younger pitcher? Maybe they bite the bullet and sign a pitcher who has implications on the 2014 season payroll and deal with it when they cross that bridge? Maybe the desire to stay competitive in the toughest division in baseball and reach the playoffs in 2013 trumps the notion of saving money due to luxury tax penalties in 2014? Either way, Kuroda’s decision will be one which has an immense impact on the rest of the Yankees’ offseason and beyond.