In 2012, Hiroki Kuroda finished his best overall season of his career. In his one season in pinstripes he pitched to a 16-13 record, 3.32 ERA, in 219.2 innings of work. His 16 wins and 219.2 innings were career-highs. Perhaps more importantly he stabilized the pitching staff that was influx for most of the year. Staff ace, CC Sabathia, visited the disabled list a few times with elbow discomfort. Meanwhile, the back end with Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes, et al, were shaky at best at various points in the season.
It was Kuroda who became a bastion of consistency. Many fans thought of him as a nice addition to the staff, but they were looking more toward Michael Pineda‘s mid-to-high 90’s fastball to dazzle in the Bronx. However, it was Kuroda’s under-the-radar approach that helped guide the Yankees to the best record in the American League. Unfortunately for Yankee fans and upper management, he’s using this season as a springboard for a more lucrative contract, as he should.
The soon-to-be 38-year-old recently revealed that he is open to returning to Japan or for the Yankees. He has since retracted that statement and now is open to any team for a one-year deal. Much like Mariano Rivera did during the mid-00’s, this is a ploy to wring as much money out of the organization as possible. The scary part for fans is, Kuroda is needed for next season and fits into their plans both long-term and short-term.
For example, the long-term advantage they would gain is financial flexibility. Our own Matt Hunter recently wrote a wonderful guide on the Yankees 2013 payroll, and a one-year deal would allow the Yankees to take the softest approach to getting Pineda back and healthy, (Note: Cashman has expressed that Pineda will not be counted on to contribute in 2013). Meanwhile, it would allow the Yankees payroll to remain flexible toward that 2014 cap.
In the short-term, it would mean they won’t have to enter the bidding for Zack Greinke or Dan Haren, which would undoubtedly handcuff the Yankees for years to come. While both Greinke and Haren are good pitchers in their own regard, they both come with major red flags and demands for huge contracts.
Beyond those two former Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim pitchers there’s Edwin Jackson, who is one of the more inconsistent pitchers, but he’s a workhorse. Anibal Sanchez is another option, but again, the race to sign him is beginning to heat up which means his signature will cost the Yankees a fortune in both money and years. That being said, the Yankees would either need to swing a trade or trust in their farm system, which really hasn’t churned out a great starter since, well, Andy Pettitte.
The offseason has just started, but unlike the Yankees of old, there’s a budget. With a budget comes sacrifices and Kuroda could price himself out of New York if the bidding war starts. Although it was the offense that let the Yankees down during the postseason, it was the starting pitching that kept them from embarrassing themselves. Furthermore, Hiroki Kuroda was absolutely dazzling throughout the season and makes a solid #2 pitcher behind Sabathia. Now, if only he could just give the Yankees one more season at a good price. One can hope!