The Yankees checked off a big name on their shopping list today when they agreed to terms with Hiroki Kuroda on a one-year, $15 million deal plus incentives, according to Buster Olney of ESPN. The incentives are said to add up to less than $1 million.
Re-signing Kuroda was a little trickier than expected. They initially offered him a $13.3 million qualifying offer thinking that he might accept it. However he turned it down when he started getting interest from other teams on a multi-year deal.
Then there were the rumors that he might want to go back to Japan. Or perhaps he wanted to move back to Los Angeles where he has two daughters in school. In the end it all seemed like a way for Kuroda to gain leverage with the Yankees. He had to settle for a one-year, $10 million deal last season. After he established himself as a solid option even in the AL East, he got himself a nice raise.
It could have been bad if the Yankees hadn’t re-signed him too. CC Sabathia had elbow surgery and Andy Pettitte is still undecided upon retirement. Adding Kuroda, whom can be counted on for 200 innings, is huge. Who knows? Maybe Pettitte could have decided to retire again if Kuroda skipped town, like he did after they missed out on Cliff Lee.
Either way, Kuroda is in the fold and now the Yankees can turn their attentions toward re-signing Pettitte and Mariano Rivera. With those guys, unlike Kuroda, the Yankees know it’s either retirement or a return for them. There is no fear that they might sign with the Dodgers. That makes negotiations a little bit easier, less time consuming. Perhaps the Yankees will even begin to ramp up their search for a Nick Swisher replacement now.
This was a big step though. The Yankees now have Kuroda in the fold. If they get Pettitte back, they’ll have one of the best pitching rotations in the game on paper. The consequences of not having Kuroda could have been big. They would have either had to sign a mediocre free agent, go for an older/injury risk type, or trade prospects. Re-signing Kuroda is a much better option than any of that and they can always use one of those options for depth now.
Kuroda was huge for the Yankees last season and among the biggest pickups that anybody in the game made last offseason. He finished with a 3.32 ERA, a 6.8 K/9, a 2.1 BB/9 and batters had just a .705 OPS against him in 219.2 innings. With CC on the DL for stints at a time and Pettitte gone with the broken ankle, he was the Yankees ace for much of the season.