You couldn’t ask for a much better bargain than Hiroki Kuroda. Signed to a one year, $10 million contract on the same day that the Yankees traded their top prospect for Michael Pineda,it was Kuroda who ent on to be the truly impactful acquisition. The 37 year old was arguably the Yankees’ best starter in 2012, leading the team in innings pitched and ER and anchoring the staff through a period in which C.C. Sabathia and Andy Pettitte were both injured. It’s not taking someone off of the scrap heap and having them put up Cy Young caliber numbers or anything, but it’s about as close to that as you ever really see people get.
Now, however, the Yankees have a pretty interesting decision to make as Kuroda gets set to hit the open market for a second straight year, but this time following arguably his best season as a major leaguer. The Yankees would no doubt like to have him back, but at what cost? Would they give him a two year deal at 38 years old, pushing an additional cost into the 2014 budget plans? What about making him a qualifying offer so as to qualify for a draft pick if he signs elsewhere? You would think that that’s a no-brainer, but consider that the $13.3 million salary that would entail would not only be a raise for Kuroda, ut would even be higher than the $12 million they were reluctant to pay him last year due to luxury tax related costs.
My guess, however, is that money now won’t be much of an obstacle in terms of keeping Kuroda on a one year contract. Remember that, in addition to age, there were questions last winter as to how well Kuroda could pitch in the American League East, after spending the rest of his MLB career in the much more pitcher friendly N.L. West. Those questions have now been put to bed, so even though Kuroda will be a year older, there shouldn’t be a ton of risk involved in a single year pact. I expect the Yankees to make a qualfying offer, and I think there’s a pretty good chance that Kuroda is back with the team earning a $14-16 million salary
The one thing that could throw a wrench in that, however, would be another team making a multi-year offer to Kuroda, as I very much doubt that the Yankees want to make that kind of commitment given Kuroda’s age and their financial situation heading into 2014. I suppose it’s also possible Kuroda could return to Japan to pitch, but that would be pretty surprising after the season he just had.