In each of the past few offseasons it was abundantly clear that Hiroki Kuroda‘s preferences left him with just a few options. The veteran starter could return to either the New York Yankees or Los Angeles Dodgers, head home to pitch in Japan, or hang up his spikes and retire. A week ago the speculation and waiting came to an end with Kuroda returning to where his career began as he’d signed a one year deal with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp.
A few days after news of his decision broke, speculation began to leak out via a handful of Japanese reports about the other offers Kuroda had received. It seemed as though Kuroda had accepted less guaranteed money to return to Japan – for what appears to be the final season of his career – than what he’d been offered by the Yankees or Dodgers. Rumblings also linked the San Diego Padres as having been in the mix, reportedly making an offer in the neighborhood of $18 million.
Jeff Sanders at the San Diego Union-Tribune confirms that the Padres had an aggressive offer out to Kuroda, but a team source tells him it “wasn’t quite that high” in terms of the potential salary.
San Diego has been one of the most active clubs this offseason under the leadership of new GM A.J. Preller but they have yet to get aggressive with the free agent market. Most of the early moves centered on rebuilding the team’s lineup and the outfield in particular, rather than adding to the pitching staff. Preller was able to make a number of significant upgrades without parting with too much of the club’s top end pitching depth, which makes the interest in Kuroda all the more notable.
Friars on Base
As things stand today, the Padres could head into the season with a starting rotation made up of Andrew Cashner, Ian Kennedy, Tyson Ross, and Odrisamer Despaigne. There are numerous candidates who could potentially fill the last spot in the rotation, though many are coming off significant injuries and remain question marks (Josh Johnson, Casey Kelly, etc.). Kuroda would have worked into the top half of that mix, providing the group another experienced veteran and further depth to add into the mix.
Since Kuroda made his decision to head back to Japan, the Padres have moved on to other options and picked up a pair of relief options for a relatively minimal cost. They’ve yet to address the rotation and it’s unclear if they are going to do so. Beyond Kuroda, the only rotation-changing pitcher that the team has been connected to this offseason has been Cole Hamels, but it remains to be seen how serious the Padres are about the high cost it’ll take to acquire him (a package likely headlined by Wil Myers).