Rangers expressing interest in free agent Hiroki Kuroda?

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Take this one with a grain of salt, as Japanese news services have been wrong many times before about the goings-on in MLB. But here’s the report…

According to Sponichi, via the invaluable Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker, the Rangers are expressing free-agent interest in Hiroki Kuroda.

Kuroda has drawn attention from several teams this offseason, including the Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles and Rockies, but he’s not budging from an asking price that is thought to be in the range of $12-$13 million annually. The Rangers might not have that kind of room in their budget, and they already have six viable starters on their 40-man roster in Derek Holland, Colby Lewis, Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison, Alexi Ogando, and Yu Darvish — who is expected to sign a contract before the January 18 deadline. So it’s hard to see where Kuroda might fit.

But, hey, crazier things have happened. And the 36-year-old right-hander isn’t just some slouch.

Kuroda registered a 3.07 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 32 starts last year for the Dodgers, striking out 161 batters and issuing only 49 walks in 202 innings. He has a 3.45 career ERA in four major league seasons.

The Cubs will try to clinch the NL Central on Tuesday

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The Cubs soundly defeated the Cardinals on Monday night, 10-2, sending their magic number down to one. They will try to clinch the NL Central on Tuesday with another win against the Cardinals. Alternatively, if they lose, they can still clinch if the Brewers also lose on Tuesday.

The Cubs, of course, won the Central last year en route to winning their first World Series since 1908. It wasn’t nearly as easy this year as the club was below .500 entering June and was exactly at .500 entering July. A 16-8 July, 17-12 August, and 15-8 September have helped put the Cubs back in position to return to the postseason.

Not to be forgotten, the Cardinals were eliminated from NL Central contention with Monday’s loss. Now they have their sights set on the second NL Wild Card slot and currently trail the Rockies in that race.

The matchups for Tuesday’s action:

Carter Capps to undergo surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome

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Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union Tribune reports that Padres pitcher Carter Capps will undergo surgery this offseason to address thoracic outlet syndrome, which doctors believe caused the right-hander’s blood clots. The Padres hope to have him ready by spring training next year.

Capps, 27, underwent Tommy John surgery last year and didn’t debut this season until August 7. He made 11 relief appearances, yielding nine runs on 12 hits and two walks with seven strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings. He went back on the DL on September 12 due to the blood clot issue.

The Padres acquired Capps from the Marlins last July in the Andrew Cashner trade which ended up having a lot of moving parts. Capps will enter his third and final year of arbitration eligibility this offseason. It’s quite possible the Padres choose to non-tender him.