Kuroda finished the 2012 season with a 16-11 record and 3.32 ERA.
Stay in the Majors or return to Japan? That always seemed to be the really question regarding starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda. It’s no secret that Kuroda has a desire to return to his country.
This is why the New York Yankees willingness to sign Kuroda to a one-year deal may have worked in their favor. New York has resigned Kuroda to a one-year, $15 million contract for next season. The deal completes the first step in GM Brian Cashman’s off-season plan.
Kuroda finished the 2012 season with a 16-11 record and 3.32 ERA. He was arguably the teams most consistent pitcher.
The signing of Kuroda has the Yankees starting rotation currently set at CC Sabathia, Kuroda, Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova, and David Phelps. Cashman is waiting to hear from free agent Andy Pettitte on whether or not he wants to return. The Yankees would love to add to their rotation and have a spring training competition between Nova, Phelps, and others for the fifth spot.
The Yankees had originally offered Kuroda a $13.3 million qualifying offer earlier this month. After declining that, Kuroda was in talks with the Dodgers and Angels in addition to New York.
With the free agent market being rather thin this year, it was important for the Yankees to ink Kuroda to a deal. For Cashman, it’s just the first step in finalizing a roster for the 2013 season.
“It’s a relief to know that Hiroki is back,” Cashman said. “As long as he can stay healthy, we feel we know what we’re going to get. . . . I have a list of things to accomplish. This goes under the ‘accomplished’ category.”
Along with Pettitte, the Yankees are also in talks with closer Mariano Rivera about a return. Rivera missed the remainder of last season after suffering an injury that required surgery. The Yankees would love to have Rivera return to his closer role. Rafael Soriano, who took over the closer spot when Rivera got hurt, became a free agent after the season.
Cashman is also looking around to fill the open roster spots at catcher and right field. Russell Martin remains a possibility to return as the Yankees like hid defensive presence behind the plate. As far as the outfield goes, the Yankees and Raul Ibanez have been talking about another contract. They have also been talking with free agent Scott Hairston. Don’t be surprised if the Yankees sign both players and use them in a platoon.
The Yankees are also apparently interested in free agent shortstop Stephen Drew. They likely view Drew as a player that can sub at any infield position.
It’s shopping season and the Yankees are not going to just sit home and watch the madness. Cashman is constantly working to improve the ball club and signing Kuroda was the first big step.