We were totally cool with the Yankees signing Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year deal last offseason, and we’re totally cool with them doing it again before the start of the 2013 season. Brian Cashman, he of baseball’s most openly fiscal surname, will be giving Kuroda $15 million to wear pinstripes next season, and given Kuroda’s track record the deal seems like a good one for both parties. Already 37, a team can’t exactly take the risk of locking Kuroda up, but he still remains one of the most effective starters in baseball despite hardly being a household name.
Kuroda made the transition from the NL West to the AL East in impressive fashion, putting up a 3.9 WAR season (per FanGraphs) in his first season with the Yankees. Kuroda pitched a career-best 219 2/3 innings while striking out 6.84/9, walking 2.09/9, and posting a 3.86 FIP. A smart pitcher with ample movement and knowledge, Kuroda isn’t likely to suddenly fall apart just because he’s another year older. His new deal is an expensive one, but the length mitigates the risk admirably. Given that we’ve read other teams were in on Kuroda, it seems likely no one was willing to tack on a second year for a better chance at securing him.
The Yankees honestly kind of had to come up with a deal for Kuroda. He was the team’s second-best starter in 2012, and there are already plenty of questions circling around an aging roster full of would-be holes. The Blue Jays recently got a whole lot better, the Rays are perennially dangerous, the Red Sox will surely make a few moves, and the Orioles laughed in our face and made the playoffs last season. With the rest of the division on the upswing, the Yankees can hardly afford to sit on their hands. Plus, sitting on your hands is uncomfortable and would probably make them fall asleep.
In addition to the quality of his work, Kuroda has become a dependable option when searching for quantity as well. He has cleared 183 innings in four of his five Major League seasons (and the last three), and that’s a big plus for a team with a rotation as potentially unstable as New York’s. CC Sabathia is a thunderhorse, but he’s finally started to miss time here and there. As for the rest of the rotation, well, there are plenty of questions; Kuroda returning is a step in the right direction to providing answers.