By Ross Newhan
I don't know if Hiroki Kuroda celebrates Thanksgiving, but he received an early gift from the New York Yankees, who resigned the 38 year old right hander to a one year, $15 million--that's FIFTEEN MILLION--contract. A turkey of a deal by the Yankees? Well, not entirely. Kuroda was 16-11 last season with a 3.32 earned-run average and 1.165 WHIP, for sabermetric followers. Call it a very decent year, and I am not knocking Kuroda. The point here is that his new contract is illustrative of the high price of pitching at a time when the free agent market is very limited, and both the Angels and Dodgers are trapped in a situation in which they desperately need pitching.
To put it bluntly, what do the Dodgers really have behind Clayton Kershaw, and can the Angels count on Garrett Richards and Jerome Williams to fill two of the three holes behind Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson?
Both teams, among others, are pursuing Zack Greinke, far and away the premier free agent on the market.
Greinke was a combined 15-5 with the Milwaukee Brewers and Angels last season, and has averaged 207 innings over the last five years, going 70-43. However, he made $13.5 million last year, is rumored to be seeking a five year contract at least and, while in his prime at 29 starting 2013, it is hard to forget that he once walked away from the game over mental issues while with the Kansas City Royals. In that regard, perhaps, he is the personification of what Mark Walter, the controlling partner of the Dodgers, meant late last season when he expressed disdain for long term contracts for pitchers by saying, "pitchers break."
Anibal Sanchez, who is probably No. 2 on the free agent list talent wise, will also be 29 at the start of next season but has broken down with injuries so often that he is clearly a risk despite his similar desire for a multi year contract of at least $10 million a year. Sanchez was 9-13 with a 3.86 earned run average with Miami and Detroit last year.
Kyle Lohse, who was 14-8 in 2011 and a career best 16-3 with St. Louis last season, is certain to draw attention, but can Lohse repeat at 34 and where does he go from there in demanding a multiyear contract built on the $12.1 million he earned in 2012?
Pitching is the name of the game, of course, as the San Francisco Giants proved again while winning the World Series for the second time in the last three years.
It's just that the name of the game has never been so expensive, and quite a few back of the rotation pitchers on the free agent list are going to be paid as if they are better than that,
Kuroda, who is a No. 2 if you stretch it and more like a No. 3, has already demonstrated the inflationary nature of a market that has been heating up as the holidays approached, and for $15 million Kuroda, the former Dodger who probably left money on the table by not testing the market, is very happy to celebrate Thanksgiving in Osaka.