Defying the logic of aging patterns, Japanese import Hiroki Kuroda put together his finest season this year at age 37. Despite the likielihood that the New York Yankees decide to resign Kuroda, he remains an attractive rotation option thanks to The Big 3: Durability, Effectiveness, and the rarest gem of all, a Preference For One Year Contracts.
The Angels could certainly make a play for Kuroda, who spent his first four MLB seasons in Los Angeles with the Dodgers. More importantly, should the Angels attempt to outspend the Bombers and lure Kuroda back to the southland? His numbers across a five season career are both consistent and strong, with ERA+’s reading at 112, 106, 114, 120, and 126. Kuroda’s always been an efficient, low-walk sinkerballer and his innings pitched total exceeded 200 in each of his last two seasons. With the exception of a 20-start 2009, Kuroda’s health has been outstanding and he looks like a virtual lock for another strong campaign in 2013.
Even the dreaded BAbip look checks out, with Kuroda’s sitting between .277 and .290 in every season of his career. Dodger Stadium helped him and Yankee Stadium hurt him, but he excelled in both places. In fact, 2012 saw him rack up a 2.72 ERA at home (4.23 away) neutralizing lefties despite Yankee Stadium’s ludicrously short porch in right. Kuroda’s K/BB rate fell between 3.27 and 3.31 across 2010-2012 and only his 49 home runs allowed in the last two seasons merit some concern.
Overall, Kuroda is worth signing and would make for an ideal #3 starter on the Halos behind Weaver and either C.J. Wilson and Zack Greinke, depending on the former’s effectiveness and the latter’s free agency result. The Angels’ concerns regarding Kuroda should lie in his price-tag. After overspending on Pujols and probably Wilson, the Halos front office would be wise to feel a touch gun-shy at the prospect of another 15+ million dollars added to 2013′s payroll.
Jon Heyman reported that Kuroda will decline the Yankees’ 13.3 million dollar qualifying offer and the Dodgers and Red Sox have emerged as players to sign him. With the dearth of prime time starting pitchers available in this market, Kuroda will sign for more than his perceived market value. The 5.2 WAR he posted last year will lead numbers-savvy teams to regard him as something of an unsung gem, hidden behind his age and C.C. Sabathia’s legitimate ace status. He pitched well in October, tossing 16 innings and allowing 5 runs in two starts, but the Yankees’ mortifying ALCS exit left highlights underreported. Smart GMs will recognize Kuroda as a pitcher unmoved by situation, someone whose xFIP is always around 3.50, someone who keeps his ground ball rate around 50%, someone who strikes out just enough batters to succeed, and someone whose fastball has the same low 90′s velocity as it did when he broke in with the Dodgers.
Kuroda will get close to 20 million dollars in 2013 if the Yankees, Dodgers, and Red Sox decide to make aggressive pursuits. For the Angels, signing free agents to fill a one-year gap gives me some pause. They certainly have the talent to WIN NOW, and an improved starting rotation is really all they need for an October berth provided the offense repeats its 2012 efforts. A one year deal means a Kuroda underperformance won’t destroy their future. Yet, the Angels won’t be able to afford both Kuroda and Greinke, at least not rationally. Greinke, who could perform well for another half decade, sounds superficially more attractive than the one-and-probably-done Kuroda even though he’ll cost more and marks a larger gamble. Regardless of the Angels’ choice, signing either starter gives them one of 2013′s best rotations on paper. They should probably head the Angels’ Wish List at this point.