Most baseball insiders and those close to Yankee starter Hiroki Kuroda expect the Japanese right-hander to retire at the end of the season. He has flirted with retirement for each of the last two off-seasons before signing one-year deals to play one more year in pinstripes. He has explicated stated on multiple occasions that he is only interested in playing for the Yankees or Dodgers, the only MLB teams on which he has ever played. So, if Kuroda postpones retirement for another year, should the Yankees resign the aging pitcher?
Anyone who follows baseball knows you can never have too much pitching and Kuroda would likely only require another one-year deal. However, while Yankees would not be in a bidding war for the starter’s services with any other teams, Kuroda does have a hefty price tag. He earned $16 million this season, a $1 million raise from 2013. It would be extremely unlikely for the pitcher to take any kind of pay cut. But it would be only a one-year deal, so there would be no long term harm right?
There is an old adage in baseball that there is “no such thing as a bad one year deal.” However, a one-year deal for Kuroda in the $16-$18 million range would attempt to disprove that statement. While Kuroda has remained healthy all year, something no other Yankee starter can claim, and had an overall decent year he will be 40-years-old next year and has failed to pitch well late in the season for the last few years. Kuroda has logged 174 innings this season for the Bombers going 10-8 with a 3.78 ERA but has needed special treatment all season. The Yankees have gone out of their way to keep the ancient pitcher healthy and fresh for the stretch run by giving hi extra days off and severely limiting his pitch count.
Next year the Yankees will not be able to afford such a luxury. They will have one starter (CC Sabathia) coming off major knee surgery who will likely need additional time between starts. They will at least one (Ivan Nova) and possibly two (Masahiro Tanaka) starters recovering from Tommy John Surgery. Another likely starter (Michael Pineda) has a long history of injuries. The Bombers will need more consistency and less questions from Kuroda’s spot in the rotation than a 40 year old finesse pitcher will be able to provide.
The 2015 Yankees would be better served using Kuroda’s rotation spot to resign Brandon McCarthy, who is a half-decade younger than Kuroda, and continuing to develop one of the young guns that have helped keep the Yankees afloat for most this summer like Shane Greene or Chase Whitley. They would be wise to also pursue one of the big name free agents available this off-season as well.
With Kuroda’s $16 million salary coming off the books, signing a pitcher like Max Scherzer, Jon Lester or James Shields to a $20-$25 million dollar a year deal suddenly doesn’t add that much to the total team payroll. This is especially true when you consider it will probably cost an additional million or two to keep the veteran. The Yankees are generally not shy about adding payroll and now you are adding only between $5 and $10 million to the overall payroll. The Yankees can afford that and would be a better team in 2015 because of it.