This offseason free agent Hiroki Kuroda must decide whether he will stay in Los Angeles and play for the Dodgers in 2012 or return to his home country of Japan. His former team, the Hiroshima Carp, have extended an offer to Hiro for him to rejoin the team that he played with for 11 years before being signed by the Dodgers in 2007. Hiroki was happy to hear of the offer and said: “I’m happy that they would evaluate my contributions like that. Naturally, I’m happy. A feeling that they really want to win came across. (Hiroshima’s competitiveness this season) has come to a frustrating place, to a place where they are one step away… I’m very happy I got an offer from the Carp.” The classy right-hander uses a translator during interviews, but he always has positive things to say. His reaction to the offer is respectful, and I’m sure he would like the Carp to be successful.
Kuroda pitched 202 innings for the Dodgers last season. He finished with a 13-16 record and a solid 3.07 ERA. He’ll turn 37 years old in February, and he’s coming off of a 1-year $12 million contract. In four seasons he’s played 115 games with the Dodgers.
We will keep you updated with this offseason story, and once Hiroki makes his decision we will be here to tell you. Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, and Ted Lilly are the only pitchers returning for sure so far in 2012. Some possible fifth starters include Dana Eveland and Nathan Eovaldi. Rubby De La Rosa is recovering from Tommy John surgery and isn’t expected to return until late 2012.
Resigning Kuroda should be a priority this offseason since Chad Billingsley’s inconsistency and the plagued fifth starter spot are weak links in the starting pitching rotation. Kuroda has been an asset to the team through his dedication and work ethic. Kuroda made it abundantly clear that he is loyal to the Dodgers when he exercised his no-trade clause in July after trade rumors swirled. I think Kuroda will eventually return to play for Japan for perhaps an encore of sorts to give thanks to his Japanese fans. Although a possibility, his departure from the MLB is not imminent to me. There’s much more baseball left for Hiro, and that should be done wearing Dodger blue.