His name is not as catchy as “Dice-K” and he does not have a “gyro” ball, but Hiroki Kuroda offers one thing that sets him apart from countryman Daisuke Matsuzaka – affordability.
The D-Backs have offered Japanese right-hander Kuroda, 32, a three-year contract believed to be worth about $30 million, although they would not discuss their offer, first reported in a Japanese newspaper over the weekend.
“We have money to spend if it’s for the right player,” D-Backs managing general partner Ken Kendrick said.
“We think the guy is superior to any other pitcher on the U.S. free agent market. We’ll see how the sweepstakes plays out. It doesn’t hurt to try.”
Seattle is believed to be the front-runner for Kuroda, who was 12-8 with a 3.56 ERA for the Hiroshima Carp in 2007 after leading the Central League with a 1.85 ERA in 2006 and with 15 victories in 2005.
The Mariners, the only team permitted to make a presentation to Kuroda in Japan, are owned by a Japanese company and have been in the forefront of the Japanese market, signing Ichiro Suzuki and Kenji Johjima.
Kansas City, Philadelphia and the Chicago Cubs have said they are interested in Kuroda, although he has said he would like to pitch for a team in the Western United States.
Kuroda, who opted out of his contract with Hiroshima, is a complete free agent, meaning that no major league team has to pay a posting fee, which drove up Matsuzaka’s price and limited the bidding on him last offseason.
“We’ll see,” D-Backs general manager Josh Byrnes said. “It’s a different process, to the extent he might need to visit various teams.”
Kuroda has not told the D-Backs whether or not he will visit the Valley.
The D-Backs saw Kuroda extensively last season, sending three scouts at various times, and new director of Pacific Rim operations Mack Hayashi is very familiar with Kuroda’s career.
“A lot of people have put eyes on him on him over the last two years,” Byrnes said.