The Yankees have had mixed results with free agent pitchers going from the NL to the AL. The experience has been nothing but positive with Hiroki Kuroda and the Yankees announced that he will return to the Bronx for 2013.
The Yankees did not release financial terms of the deal but Kuroda will reportedly make $15 million plus incentives worth less than one million. Kuroda joined the Yankees in 2012 after four seasons with the Dodgers, signing a one-year contract worth $10 million.
“I am very happy and excited to re-sign with the Yankees,” said Kuroda in press release issued by the Yankees. “I am very grateful for all of the interest and all of the offers that I received from the various teams that courted me. It was a tough decision for me to make, but at the end of the day, I wanted to try to win a championship with the teammates that I went to battle with last season.”
Kuroda is 57-57 with a 3.42 ERA in 148 career appearances, has made at least 30 starts and pitched at least 180 innings in four of five seasons. He also has increased his win total and last year was the Yankees’ most consistent starting pitcher by going 16-11 with a 3.32 ERA and a career-high 219 2/3 innings.
Kuroda’s success carried over to the postseason as he allowed five runs in 16 innings against the Orioles and Tigers. He also struck out 14, including 11 over 7 2/3 innings against the Tigers in Game 2 of the ALCS.
Besides retaining their No. 2 starter and most pivotal free agent, it also helps the Yankees attempt to approach managing partner Hal Steinbrenner’s mandate of a $189 million payroll for 2014 since the deal is one-year deal.
It stabilizes the spot behind CC Sabathia. The Yankees would have faced difficulties replacing him, possibly dipping into the free agent pool that includes Zach Greinke, Anibal Sanchez and Ryan Dempster.
Kuroda was the first domino to fall after he decided against returning to Japan. Last week, reports indicated Kuroda was interested in returning to Los Angeles, but this week reports said the Yankees were the only team he was considering.
The next item on the Yankees’ priority list is to find out if Andy Pettitte plans on returning. The Yankees signed Pettitte during spring training in 2012 but they are expected to find out well before that this season. It will likely cost them more than the $2.5 million he was paid last season.
Another free agent that might be retained is catcher Russell Martin, who has drawn high praise for his defensive game and is very familiar with Kuroda. Kuroda has a 2.99 ERA in 90 starts with Martin behind the plate and pitched to his former Dodger teammate 30 times last year.
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.