One of Brian Cashman’s top priorities this winter is bringing back Hiroki Kuroda for 2013.

However, according to Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles, Kuroda could be heading back to California next season.

Saxon reported that Kuroda has told friends his preference is to pitch near California because that’s where his two daughters are attending elementary school.

And if that’s the case, that means the Los Angeles Dodgers and Angels would be the two front-runners for Kuroda’s services.

Kuroda was a member of the Dodgers for four seasons, but they decided not to bring him back for 2012, which could end up giving the Dodgers the potential edge in landing him.

The 37-year-old Japanese starter went 16-11 with a 3.32 in 33 starts for the Bombers last season and was arguably the Yankees most consistent and best pitcher during the year.

His great season in pinstripes is the reason why the Dodgers, Angels, Boston Red Sox, Yankees and Japan are all interested in Kuroda’s services.

The Yankees did offer Kuroda a one-year, $13.3 million qualifying offer, but Kuroda rejected it because he knew he could probably get more money on a one-year deal.

Losing Kuroda to free agency would be a major blow to a Yankee rotation that is in limbo for next year.

Andy Pettitte is still deciding on his 2013 future and Michael Pineda is still recovering from an injury and likely won’t be ready for next year.

Plus, Ivan Nova had a terrible second half to 2012 in which he was bounced from the rotation. Phil Hughes only has one year left on his deal, which leaves CC Sabathia as the only guarantee of the staff.

But if in fact Kuroda bolts from the Bronx, it makes things that much more complicated for Cashman and the Yankees regarding their plans for next year.

Stay tuned, Yankees Universe.

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