Loyal Kuroda too expensive for Dodgers

Dodgers pitcher Hiroki Kuroda delivers a pitch on Sept. 22 against the Giants. He earned his 13th win of 2011, likely his last in a Los Angeles uniform

The Los Angeles Dodgers hoped to sign Hiroki Kuroda, a good man and a good pitcher who once returned to the Dodgers in part because he felt like he owed them more.

Weird, I know.

The problem was, Kuroda is one of the better starters on the market – below C.J. Wilson and alongside Roy Oswalt and Mark Buehrle. And while that shouldn't be an issue for the Dodgers, it is.

For all the love outgoing owner Frank McCourt got for signing Matt Kemp long term and ignoring the possible sale implications of that, the Kemp contract is heavily back-loaded and there's still very little money to turn the current Dodgers into anything other than the mediocre ballclub they are.

Let's assume Kuroda pulls about $13 million a year. That's under Buehrle's AAV of $14.5 million with the Miami Marlins. Though their numbers over the past two seasons were pretty similar, Buehrle gets more because he's four years younger and the Marlins are wacky.

Here's what Ned Colletti got for $12.4 million in 2012: Mark Ellis, Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano, Jerry Hairston Jr., Adam Kennedy, Tony Gwynn Jr. and Matt Treanor. Plus, he'll have another few hundred thousand to spend on a middle reliever. It's what passes for an offseason in the little berg north of Anaheim.

So, and I blame this on McCourt, Colletti could have had Kuroda, but then he'd be short a second baseman, a left fielder, any kind of utility infield help and a backup catcher and his rotation would run four deep.

This is what happens when a man goes $700 million into debt on his business alone, as Forbes reported based on the MLB sale book that went out Monday. McCourt's personal debt can't be pretty, either. So, at a time when they should have been players for Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder, the Dodgers weren't. And as the Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes prepares to come free, the Dodgers didn't scout him in earnest. As one of their baseball people asked me, "What, is he going to play for free?" They never even considered bidding on Yu Darvish.

[ Related: Massive Darvish bid was worth the risk for Texas ]

While none of this is new or a surprise, I heard Monday morning that Kuroda was close to agreeing to a new contract and it wouldn't be with the Dodgers. The Seattle Mariners said it wasn't them, and the Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, among others, answered similarly: "Not us."

The bottom line: The Dodgers could have used Kuroda. Kuroda liked it in L.A. They were good for each other. And the whole wretched McCourt affair continues to dog the franchise large and small, as every day L.A. gets a new reason to wish this sale could move along faster.

Also …

The Cincinnati Reds, who this weekend went all in on right-hander Mat Latos, remain on the market for a closer and a left fielder.

The Latos trade for Yonder Alonso, Edinson Volquez, Brad Boxberger and Yasmani Grandal – or last one out of the Reds' farm system get the lights – was expected to loosen the free-agent and trade market for pitchers, and there was some slight movement Monday. Along with the lingering sense that Kuroda might be nearing a resolution, the market was waiting on the likes of Oakland's Gio Gonzalez, Chicago's Matt Garza, Tampa Bay's James Shields or Wade Davis, and the two-pronged Chicago White Sox's John Danks and Gavin Floyd. reported Monday that the Washington Nationals were zeroing in on Gonzalez, who's getting a lot of attention. And, by the way, the A's might be in the mood; Just 10 days ago they traded Trevor Cahill and Craig Breslow to the Arizona Diamondbacks for an armload of prospects. …

The market for Carlos Beltran, who should find a home by Christmas: St. Louis, Toronto, Boston and a fourth team, perhaps Tampa Bay. He's weighing two- and three-year offers. I still think the Red Sox make the most sense, and that ultimately he'll sign with the Cardinals. There's too much artificial turf in Toronto and Tampa Bay, and few DH at-bats in St. Louis. …

Yahoo's Steve Henson reported Monday night the Cardinals were in discussions with Coco Crisp to play center field and lead off (Jon Jay would move to right until Allan Craig healed). If the Crisp deal gets done, that would presumably kill the Cards' interest in Beltran. …

The Diamondbacks were in on Kuroda all along, but grew impatient and spent their money on outfielder Jason Kubel instead. …

[ Related: Jeff Passan's ultimate free-agent tracker ]

Believe what you will about Victor Conte, but the man is almost always right. After telling Yahoo! last week about the fast-acting (and disappearing) testosterone being used by many athletes (including, he thinks, many baseball players), he told KNBR in San Francisco, "I believe [Ryan Braun] is going to serve the 50-game suspension."

Meantime, TMZ reported Braun's heightened testosterone level – and the presence of synthetic testosterone – was caused by medication he took for a "private medical issue."

At the MLB offices, this would be known as the "Manny Ramirez defense," which would be more about softening the public view of the offense than escaping punishment. …

Cespedes has not yet been granted residency in the Dominican Republic. That must happen before MLB clears him for free agency. …

The ubiquitous Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports the Cardinals' team store cut the price of Albert Pujols T-shirts from $30 to $10 in a "Farewell Albert" sale. …

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