Hiroki Kuroda has been one of the few shining lights for the New York Yankees this season as he has posted a 10-7 record, 2.45 ERA and 1.05 WHIP. Not bad for the 38-year-old who was unsure if he even wanted to continue pitching.
This past off-season, Kuroda was very hesitant when it came to making a final decision on whether or not to come back for another season. He ultimately decided to come back for another season and signed on with the Yankees for one-year at $15 million. Now, with the 2013 season winding down and the Yankees unlikely to make the playoffs, Kuroda will be faced with making another decision on his future.
Kuroda will turn 39-years-old in February and, if he decides to come back and pitch another season, could have plenty of money thrown his way by several teams, including the team he broke into Major League Baseball with, the Los Angeles Dodgers. Kuroda, however, also had a fair amount of interest this past off-season from several teams but rebuffed them to return to a team he was familiar with.
To the Yankees’ ace, pitching is not the most important thing. In fact, if one were to listen to Kuroda talk, he doesn’t even enjoy playing baseball that much, a result of some of the hazing he had to endure in Japan. If Kuroda has had enough with baseball there might be no convincing him to come back, regardless of how much the Yankees, or any other team, offer him.
The Yankees, who are in danger of missing the playoffs for just the second time since the strike-shortened 1994 season, need Kuroda to come back next season. C.C. Sabathia has suddenly developed a problem with his mechanics and is struggling mightily. If he can’t fix himself the Yankees will be looking at Ivan Nova as their ace next season. While Nova has pitched very well as of late, he is probably best suited for a middle of the rotation slot, not the front.
The Yankees need Kuroda more than Kuroda needs the Yankees. It could take about $18 million to get Kuroda to re-sign, a $3 million increase but it could take more. However, if Kuroda doesn’t want to pitch anymore, and at 39-years-old that is a real possibility, the Yankees will need to find a replacement on a market where Matt Garza and Tim Lincecum are the best pitchers on the market. The Yankees need Kuroda to come back for one more season if they want to get the sour taste of 2013 out of their mouths.