Yankees: Best free agent signings of the past decade
By Adam Weinrib
It’s been a tough decade for Yankees free agent signings, but a few have stood above the rest.
Most Yankees fans likely feel that the team took a step back in free agency this past decade, splurging on CC/Teixeira/Burnett to win a title in ’09, then suddenly getting self-conscious about their bloated payroll.
That perception isn’t quite accurate. It’s more valid to say the Yanks rode out what they thought could be a dynasty with that offensive core, only won a single ring, and used the money targeted for Robinson Cano’s extension (sorry, kid) on a second splurge. We just perceive it differently because, well … that splurge involved Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann.
But, 2014 spending spree aside, the Yanks really did learn from their mistakes as the decade dragged on, utilizing targeted spending to bolster their big league roster, as well as add gems to a downtrodden team in order to yield future trade dividends.
As we survey the decade’s end and the monster deal that ushered in a new era, these rank as the best free agent signings of the past 10 years.
5. Hiroki Kuroda
Hiroki Kuroda doesn’t get nearly enough respect for what he did with some stunningly average Yankees teams.
When a 37-year-old Hiroki Kuroda joined the 2012 Yankees, coming off four impressive seasons with the Dodgers in the NL West, he was an unexpected supplement for a three-time-running postseason participant. He’d never posted an ERA above 4.00 in MLB action … and, as it turns out, he never would.
Kuroda slotted in wonderfully for the Yanks, debuting with 219.2 innings of 3.32 ERA baseball for the 2012 AL East champs. He continued to dominate in the postseason, steadily tossing 8.1 innings of two-run ball in the Raul Ibanez Game against Baltimore, then following that up with 11 whiffs in 7.2 innings against Detroit in a doomed ALCS outing.
It feels like #HIROK is mostly remembered for toiling in vain for the punchless 2013 and 2014 Yankees, but he got to briefly taste the previous era, and fit like a round peg into that boisterous clubhouse. The man simply went about his business, devouring innings on a cheap-as-hell deal. It’s a shame he never got to the absolute biggest stage in the Bronx, because every time he came close, he delivered.
Not for nothing, but his final year in 2014 coincided with the Yankees debut of one of his countrymen, and his veteran presence no doubt led to an easier transition for that particular ace.
And speaking of…