Much of the baseball buzz is focused on the Yu Darvish sweepstakes right now with the Toronto Blue Jays favored to win the the rights to the Japanese star. If the bids are supposed to be blind and if the Nippon Ham Fighters are being as tight lipped as people are saying, I’m not sure how anybody is supposed to have emerged as a “favorite”. Anyway, regardless of what happens with Yu Darvish, the New York Yankees may have some interest in another Japanese import. Former Los Angeles Dodger Hiroki Kuroda may be sitting atop the New York Yankees’ wishlist of the remaining free agent pitchers.
This isn’t the first time the Yankess have expressed interest in Kuroda. Rumors of a Kuroda pursuit swirled leading up to the trade deadline this past season, but he was not interested in moving out east. That was before he got pushed out by Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano over the past month or so. Now he’s willing to pitch on the East Coast. Things change quickly when you realize you’re not as wanted as you once thought, huh?. I don’t have a big problem with Kuroda, but I can’t say I’m his biggest fan. When the Yankees spend two Hot Stoves looking for a No. 2 starter, the idea of signing a 36 year old middle-of-the-rotation starter doesn’t quite satisfy a fan’s hunger. Kuroda has been effective though. Over four seasons he has averaged about 175 innings, posted a 3.55 FIP and struck out 6.73 per game while limiting opponents to 2.10 and .82 walks and HR per game, respectively. Unsurprisingly, his HR rate did increase (1.07 up from .69 in 2010) this past season as his GB% dropped (43.2% down from 51.1% in 2010). Whether that is a trend or a mirage, I don’t know for sure. The velocities on all of his pitches have remained constant so it doesn’t seem like the spike in fly balls was a result of diminished stuff. We’ll need to see what he does this season to come to any better conclusion.
Adding Hiroki Kuroda would not make me feel that much better about the New York Yankees’ starting rotation going into 2012 than I did going into 2011, but it’s not a bad move if he is willing to sign a one year pact. I’m still not ready to concede the Yu Darvish pursuit, but we might as well start thinking about what the Yanks can do if they fall short. Kuroda for one year would be a better option than trading a blue chip prospect in a deal for John Danks and, if Mo is willing, Dellin Betances or Manny Banuelos (if not both) will be ready to stick in the rotation in 2013.