New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman said in a press conference on Tuesday that Hiroki Kuroda was the ace of the staff in 2013 and he hopes the right-hander will return next year.
He is correct that Kuroda was New York’s best starter, especially early on, but bringing him back could be a mistake.
Kuroda dominated for the first two-thirds of the season. His ERA was well under 3.00 (including 0.55 for the month of July) and he regularly pitched into the seventh inning or later. He even out-dueled Matt Harvey last May – people forget this because the blown save by Mariano Rivera was the bigger story.
Excluding Kuroda from the All-Star game was an absolute crime, and it wasn’t the only honor for which Kuroda should have gained consideration. Max Scherzer has been the favorite for the American League Cy Young Award since June, but for a while Kuroda was right there in the mix of the AL’s best pitchers – he just didn’t get the same kind of run support.
Towards the end of the season, however, he flamed out, losing seven of his final eight decisions. He regularly had trouble getting out of the first inning without giving up runs. Though he’d eventually settle down, the early deficits he put the Yankees in were often too much for the weak offense to overcome. Maybe pitching 200 innings in a season was too much on his arm.
Based on how he pitched up until August, he was well worth the $15 million the Yankees paid him this year. But his poor finish, combined with the fact that he’ll be 39 at the start of next season indicates that if they do bring Kuroda back, it has to be at a much lower price.
Unfortunately, the Yankees do not have many other options. As of now, their starters in 2014 are C.C. Sabathia, Ivan Nova, hopefully Michael Pineda if he can come back from injury, and possibly David Phelps, Adam Warren or David Huff (Phil Hughes isn’t coming back).
They need to sign at least one more quality arm to bolster a weak rotation. James Shields would have been a great target. However, the Kansas City Royals will most likely exercise a $12 million team option on Shields for 2014. Similarly, the Cleveland Indians will probably exercise an $8 million team option on Ubaldo Jimenez.
Ervin Santana is a potential solution. The Royals right-hander had a 3.24 ERA this year, but it’ll probably cost the Yankees around $15 million to sign him.
This might be overpaying for a guy who has had an up and down career, but if I’m going to pay $15 million for a pitcher, I’d rather pay the 31 year old in his prime over the 39 year old on the decline.
Hiroki Kuroda was the Yankees’ best pitcher in 2013, but it may be time to move on.