Free Agent Forecast: Hiroki Kuroda
If nothing else, Japanese right-hander Hiroki Kuroda is consistent. Since coming to the league in 2008, he's never had an ERA over 3.76 in a season. He's an innings eater and a decent strikeout guy, while possessing impeccable control and a good sinking fastball. Kuroda's problem, especially in 2013, has been a declining product in the second half. Before the All-Star break last season, Kuroda was 8-6 with a 2.65 ERA. After the break, Kuroda went 3-7 with a 4.25 ERA. The good news for Kuroda is that seemingly everyone besides the Cardinals needs starting pitching, including the Yankees. While Kuroda wore down, teams may learn from that and skip his mid-season starts every once in a while. Kuroda does turn 39 in February, but his impressive numbers in hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium mean that somebody will surely give him a contract.
Kuroda hasn't made it perfectly clear that he intends to return to the big leagues next season, which obviously leaves his status very much uncertain. If he does return to Major League Baseball, he has a few options. He could accept the Yankees' qualifying offer (which he received from the team earlier this week) and avoid all the uncertainty. But if I were a betting man, I would predict that he will either retire/go back to Japan, or reject the qualifying offer to increase the offer. Kuroda rejected his qualifying offer last season and has no reason not to this time considering his strong 2013 season. While many teams would love an extra starter, I either see Kuroda returning as a Yankee or not returning in Major League Baseball at all.
I think Kuroda will end up signing another one-year deal with the Yankees. He clearly can still pitch, and there's not much downside to signing a short-term deal. I think he will retire after the 2014 season, but there's no reason for him not to pitch again. The Yankees front office must be looking at their rotation and seeing a lot of question marks, and Kuroda would help fill a big whole. If CC Sabathia still isn't back to his old self next season, Kuroda would be their ace … again.
One-year deal worth $18 Million.