Re-Sign or Let Him Walk: Hiroki Kuroda
Hiroki Kuroda has spent the last two seasons in the Bronx with the New York Yankees. They were both pretty good seasons, and we all know that the Yankees would like him back for one more year.
For about four and a half months, Kuroda was by far the Yankees best starter. He was dominating in almost every start and with CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes and even Andy Pettitte at times struggling, the Yankees were pleased to know that Kuroda would be taking the mound every fifth day.
As a work horse for the club, Kuroda pitched into at least the 7th inning in 20 of his 32 starts in 2013. He went into the 8th inning six times, and once into the 9th. For a 38-year-old starting pitcher, those innings numbers are impressive. But at the same time, as the innings started to pile up, Kuroda’s aging arm began to break down.
Around midway through August, Kuroda fell apart. Following a start against the Los Angeles Angels on August 12th in which Kuroda tossed 8 shutout innings, in his next three starts he gave up a combined 19 runs. From there on out, he never really looked the same. He was losing all of the crispness on his pitches, and his location was suffering. He just wasn’t able to get hitters out like he was earlier in the season.
Now with the season over, Kuroda is reportedly deciding on whether he will want to play another season in the majors, go back to Japan to finish his career, or ultimately retire.
Decision: The Yankees should attempt to re-sign Kuroda to another one-year deal. Obviously fatigue played a big role in his late-season unraveling, so bringing him back for another season is not much of a risk. For the moment, the 2013 rotation is shaping up to be filled by Ivan Nova, Sabathia, maybe Kuroda and maybe Masahiro Tanaka, who will go up for posting within the next week, with the rest being filled by guys like David Phelps, Vidal Nuno and Adam Warren.
Should Kuroda decide that he no longer wants to play then the Yankees are going to save about $15 million on not re-signing him. But should he want to go one more year, then it would be in the best interest of the club to bring him back. He’s a good pitcher with good stuff, and the Yankees were a better team with him on the mound for most of last season.
Gavin Ewbank covers the Yankees for Baseball Hot Corner. Follow him on Twitter, @GavinEwbank2013.