There's a bit of revisionism going on in baseball these days regarding signings from Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) in Japan. While teams have paid many millions of dollars for NPB players -- including a huge $51 million posting fee and a contract about that size in addition given to Daisuke Matsuzaka -- production hasn't matched pay in many cases. Very few Japanese players have been sustained successes in MLB.
One of those successes has been Hiroki Kuroda, who has been a solid performer for all four years he's been with the Dodgers (although he missed part of 2009 with injuries). Now, he's let Dodgers management know he won't be returning, and with starting pitching being at a premium, Kuroda is in demand.
CSN Chicago reports that the Cubs are interested; Theo Epstein, says the linked article, tried to acquire Kuroda for the Red Sox at the trade deadline in 2011, and Phil Rogers reports Cubs interest goes back farther:
He would be a good fit for the Cubs, who almost signed him in 2007 before he returned for one last season in Japan.
On Monday, Steve Henson of Yahoo tweeted that there's another team in the mix:
Kuroda will turn 37 in February, which is why teams might be unwilling to go to long-term deals or give out player options. But the Diamondbacks could be in the lead, or, as MLB Trade Rumors hinted last week, the Red Sox could still be in the mix.
This is a tough call for teams. Kuroda appears to be the kind of guy who could pitch effectively until he's 40. But when pitchers get to the age Kuroda will be in 2012, teams get leery. He's probably a better fit for a club like Arizona or Boston, a team that could use one more starter to get them "over the top", than the Cubs, who likely have a longer way to go before contention.
Prediction: Diamondbacks, one-year deal with team (not player) option, $13 million, $13 million option with $2 million buyout.