Friday, November 18, 2011
Hiroki Kuroda in Dodgers picture?
By Ramona Shelburne
Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said Friday that he didn't know if it was going to be possible for the club to re-sign right-handed pitcher Hiroki Kuroda.
"I'd like to have him back if possible. But I don't know if it's going to happen though," Colletti said after a news conference to announce center fielder Matt Kemp's club record eight-year, $160 contract extension.
"We have the two issues. One is whether or not he wants to stay here. The other is whether or not we can afford to keep him. ... One may be connected to the other. But I don't want to answer for him."
Kuroda will be 37 during the 2012 season. But he is coming off the best of his four seasons with the Dodgers since coming over from the Hiroshima Toyo Carp. Kuroda went 13-16 in 2011, but that was more a reflection of the team's awful run support when he was pitching than his performance. He posted a career-best 3.07 ERA and 161 strikeouts in 202 innings.
Kuroda said after his final start that he preferred to savor his season for a while before making a decision on whether to return for another season with the Dodgers, return to Japan or retire.
"If you're asking me for a wild guess, I'd say he does want to pitch one more year in Japan," Colletti said. "When that year is, I don't know."
That hints at the notion that Kuroda is not seriously weighing retirement this winter, but rather whether he wants to pitch another season in Los Angeles or return to Japan.
That decision may depend on how much the Dodgers can pay him. Kuroda made $12.5 million last season. His performance would put him in line for a raise; however, it's not often that 37-year-old pitchers get raises.
The Dodgers financial situation could also be a factor. The team will soon be sold in a bankruptcy court auction in Delaware.
Colletti said earlier in the week that the club wasn't in position to make a run at high-priced free agents like Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols this winter.
"The payroll is probably going to be lower than it was a year ago," Colletti said. "That's what I've been told."
Colletti would not say how much lower the team's payroll would be, or what timetable he had to re-sign Kuroda or look for another starting pitcher via free agency or trade.
"We're still looking for a starting pitcher. We're still looking for a versatile, veteran infielder. At least those two spots," Colletti said.
"The free-agent market is not necessarily robust right now. We're still looking to see if we can clear up a few things there. If not, we had a little bit of trade discussions at the GM meetings. Nothing that got past the 50-yard line, but a couple things we may be able to pursue at the winter meetings or later than that."
Ramona Shelburne is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com.