Kuroda’s Return Brings a Sigh of Relief

As you certainly know by now, Hiroki Kuroda will be back with the Yankees in 2013 on another one-year pact. Hiroki will receive $15 million, with an opportunity to earn $1 million more based on performance triggers. Fangraphs.com’s crowd sourcing pegged him at two for $24 million. While the fans underestimated the money, he probably could have gotten an additional year from another team. However, and fortunate for the Yankees, Kuroda wanted a one-year deal so he can always have an option to return to Japan where he wishes to finish his career.

Kuroda received a significant raise, but it was undoubtedly merited. The one year deal provides the flexibility the front office needs to meet the $189 million budget for the 2014 season, while remaining competitive. Kuroda backed up CC Sabathia superbly last season, and will be counted on to do so again.

In a career high 219.2 innings, Kuroda finished 2012 with a 3.32 ERA, 3.67 xFIP, and 3.66 SIERA, well worth the $10 million base salary he received. He also delivered two very good postseason starts against Baltimore and Detroit. While he was expected to be a solid addition last season, he has been remarkably consistent throughout his career. In his five seasons, he’s posted SIERAs of 4.04, 3.75, 3.53, and 3.66 in the most recent two. Additionally, his ERA has been anywhere between 3.76 and 3.07.

Why was Kuroda’s return so pivotal?

For one, the one year contract makes life a lot easier for Brian Cashman. Given the upcoming budget constraints, locking guys into a long-term deals in the rotation really wasn’t an option. Expect the Yankees to try to do as many one-year deals as possible over the next couple of seasons in order to maintain flexibility, similar to what they’ve done with Kuroda and Andy Pettitte. As a plus, Kuroda is probably the best buy available in free agency for those willing to take a one-year contract.

Second, Kuroda’s strong performance garnered him a great deal of trust. He did everything the Yankees ask for: dominate when the ace hit the disabled list, and deliver on three days rest in the postseason. Hiroki also protected home field, thriving at Yankee Stadium to a tune of a 2.72 ERA and 3.50 FIP.

Now that one of the chips has fallen, Brian Cashman can start the focus on the other voids. I still anticipate Pettitte and Mariano Rivera to return, while the catching and right field situation is a bit more tricky. I imagine the Yankees want to bring Russell Martin back, but probably don’t want to give too many years. Lastly, right field is kind of a mystery at this point, with the obvious fallback being Ichiro.

Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs.com

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