MILWAUKEE -- The D-backs made a run at Hiroki Kuroda when he came to the Major Leagues five years ago, and now that the Japanese right-hander is considering a farewell season, Arizona is after him again.
General manager Kevin Towers confirmed the club's serious interest in the 36-year-old, who hasn't ruled out a fifth season with the Dodgers, but hasn't committed to one either. Kuroda told the Dodgers he'd like to go out a winner, which should make the National League West champions pretty attractive. Kuroda, who went 13-16 with a 3.07 ERA in 32 starts this past season, is definitely attractive to them.
"I've always admired Kuroda," Towers said. "His first start was against the Padres when I was there. We didn't do a thing. I've heard nothing but great things about him as a person. With his style, a sinker, a strike-thrower. He plays in the NL West, he's been effective at Chase Field. And with a one-year deal, there's less risk. He's still got Japan, too, but I'm looking forward to having a discussion. Where it takes us, I don't know."
Unlike the Dodgers, who have no veteran alternative if Kuroda leaves, the D-backs can sign Kuroda and non-tender Joe Saunders or tender Saunders if Kuroda signs elsewhere. Whether the D-backs want to pay Kuroda anywhere near the $12 million he earned last year with the Dodgers is a big question, but it's not clear the Dodgers can afford that salary either with the club for sale in bankruptcy.
Towers said the club's new Spring Training facility, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, is another inducement for free agents living in Arizona who already found the D-backs an attractive destination.
"It's a selling point," he said. "The Spring Training facility is huge for players who can live in their home year-round. They don't have to be packing up. It's nice to know where you're going to be."
While the starting rotation still is in limbo, Towers said he was pleased with the re-signing of second baseman Aaron Hill to a two-year, $11 million deal.
"Based on what we saw, Hill's defense is so important in our park with our staff," he said. "His makeup, his intangibles, his ability to turn the double play. And I think we'll see more power. His swing is from the foul line to the gaps and that's the easiest part to hit it out of Chase."
Towers suggested that playing on artificial turf in Toronto might have played a part in his defensive decline over the first half of 2011 before the trade to Arizona. He also theorized that Hill was trying too hard to keep up the pace of the 62 home runs he hit in 2009 and 2010. He finished 2011 with eight.
"You hit 36 homers, and once you do that once you expect to repeat it," he said. "[Jose] Bautista was able to back it up. Aaron didn't and probably struggled."
Towers said he wants the D-backs to be "a little more aggressive" signing Latin American players, but then was asked about Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.
"I don't know if we'll be that aggressive," he said. "He's pretty amazing. Incredible hulk."
Towers said he's more comfortable at this year's General Managers Meetings than last year's, his first with the D-backs. Those rumors of dealing Justin Upton, they're gone.
"I have zero interest in moving him now that I know him," he said. "Our club is going to look a lot like it did last year at the end of the year. A different arm or two. We'll wait for the young talent. People say we overachieved to win 94 games. I hope they say that again.
"I feel much better about our club this year. Last year, I was going a lot on our scouting reports. But I've gotten to know the staff, the players in the system. I like what we have. Sometimes a lot of change isn't good. I like our character and makeup, our speed, our power, our pitching depth. Our bullpen is much stronger. And it really comes down to health. A ton of credit goes to our training staff. They are the unsung heroes with the job they did."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.