Hiroki Kuroda essentially had a reprieve from baseball purgatory. The Dodgers wanted to trade him to a contending team, perhaps the New York Yankees or the Boston Red Sox.
By waiving the no-trade clause in his contract, Kuroda could have pitch in packed ballparks instead of an empty one. He could have pitched again in October, maybe even won a World Series.
He declined that opportunity, informing the Dodgers on Saturday that he would veto any trade.
“It’s his decision,” Rafael Furcal said. “Everybody has their own decision.”
Furcal has a similar decision to make, only he is expected to approve a deal that would send him to the St. Louis Cardinals before the non-waiver trade deadline at 1 p.m. PDT on Sunday.
The Dodgers’ primary shortstop for the last six seasons, the injury-prone Furcal was playfully evasive when asked about the potential move. He wouldn’t even acknowledge that the Dodgers or his agent had informed him of the deal in place.
But when pressed, Furcal said, “It’s my decision. I can think about it.”
Furcal has no-trade rights because he is a 10/5 player, a player with more than a decade of major league service, including at least the last five with the same team. He has 24 hours from the time he or his agent were told of the deal to decide whether to accept it.
Furcal was held out of the Dodgers lineup against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Saturday while his replacement, top prospect Dee Gordon, was on his way to Los Angeles from triple A. Gordon hit .232 and stole nine bases in 22 games this season in his first major league call-up.
Dealing Furcal would not only create an opening for the swift-footed Gordon, it would also presumably allow the Dodgers to unload a portion of the $4 million Furcal is owed for the remainder of the season. Unless the Cardinals take the unexpected step of exercising his $12-million option for next season, Furcal will be a free agent this winter.
While Furcal fielded questions from reporters, Matt Kemp called over from a nearby locker: “I love you, Fookie!”
The sentiment was repeated by General Manager Ned Colletti (“I love Rafael Furcal”) and Manager Don Mattingly (“I love Fookie”).
One of the more animated players in the clubhouse, Furcal was also the Dodgers’ offensive spark when healthy. He stole 37 bases in his first season with the Dodgers, in 2006. He was an All-Star in 2010.
“When you look back at when he was at the top of his game and healthy, that’s when the offense moved,” Colletti said.
But he was often injured. Over the previous five seasons, he averaged 116 games. This year, he has been limited to 37 games because of two lengthy stays on the disabled list.
Kuroda, who is in his fourth season with the Dodgers and has an identical $12-million salary, has also had a tough season. His 3.11 earned-run average made him one of the two most coveted pitchers on the trade market, along with Ubaldo Jimenez, who was acquired by the Cleveland Indians from the Colorado Rockies.
But Kuroda saddled with the Dodgers’ limp offense, which is why he has a 6-13 record.
Still, Kuroda said he felt obligated to finish the season playing alongside the same players with whom he went into spring training.
“I recalled what I was feeling when I decided to re-sign here and pitch for this team this season,” he said. “Those feelings are important to me and I wanted them to remain important. I wanted to see this through until the end.”
He acknowledged he was tempted to move to a contender.
“Any player wants to win,” he said. “The chance of playing in the postseason is appealing to any player. … I don’t know how this will end. But this is the decision I made.”