The New York Yankees Must Retain Hiroki Kuroda
Wednesday November 14th, 2012
Jake Dal Porto: The New York Yankees are in a bit of a flux. They can no longer buy their way to championships like they did in 2009, for example. Instead, they have a plan in place to get under the $189 threshold by 2014, which certainly limits their spending this off-season. Talk about a change of events. With big names presumably out of the question due to the aforementioned restraint, Hiroki Kuroda becomes their primary focus to resign this winter.
Kuroda is fresh off what was arguably his best season as a pro. He posted a 3.32 earned run average with career-highs in the wins department (16), innings pitched (219.2), strikeouts (167), and ERA+ (126). So in short, his market value is as high as it can probably be which will increase his personal demands greatly.
However, Kuroda is still viewed as a tier two free agent with Zack Greinke and Anibal Sanchez being the cream of the crop. While he won’t make Greinke type money, it wouldn’t come as a huge shock to sign a deal worth roughly $90 million over a five-year or six-year deal. Whatever Kuroda has in mind, the Yankees must figure out a way to keep him around.
The former Dodger is about as consistent as they come. Never has he compiled an ERA higher than 3.76, meaning that he hasn’t had a bad year. With many pitchers, there’s one glaring season that stands out when stacked against the rest of the numbers. Kuroda, though, doesn’t have that trait. And for the Yankees, they need a source of reliability at their disposal this upcoming year, especially with question marks across the board, starting with their ace, CC Sabathia.
It’s not that Sabathia struggled this past season, it was the fact that the disabled list turned out to be a common occurrence for the lefty. He hit the DL twice last year which explains his low start total of 28 games. Since 2008, he has averaged 33 starts per year which number includes 2012 as well. So, he’s been nothing short of a horse, but concerns regarding his durability have become consistent over the past few weeks. Though he’s owed roughly $94 million over the next four years, so there is no escape route for New York.
In addition to his potential durability issues, Sabathia’s fastball is declining as well. Per Fangraphs, Sabathia’s average fastball speed checked in at 92.3 miles per hour last year, the lowest total of his career. This is a natural cycle for all aging pitchers, but it’s how that said pitcher handles the change that will determine his long-term effectiveness.
Elsewhere, Ivan Nova has yet to display any signs of consistency, Phil Hughes surrenders too many home runs, and the Yanks can’t possibly count on the 40 year-old Andy Pettitte to provide them with stabilization. By retaining the extremely durable Kuroda, however, one of those five rotation spots would be shored up exceedingly well.
The Yankees would also be hard pressed to find someone who can pitch like Kuroda can at the small figured Yankee Stadium. Specifically, Kuroda posted a stunning 2.72 ERA at what’s called a “bandbox” for hitters. And per ESPN park factors, a bandbox would be pretty precise description, as it is the eighth highest ranked park in the home runs department. Ironically, Kuroda yielded more long balls on the road than he did at Yankee stadium (13 on the road vs. 12 at Yankee Stadium). Realistically, Cashman probably isn’t going to find a guy who pitches so well to tiny dimensions. Some pitchers simply over-think when they’re pitching in New York which leads to beat downs. Clearly, Kuroda goes against the general crowd when it comes to pitching at Yankee Stadium.
Given the fact that he’s coming off of a career year, Kuroda has a long list of suitors. One particular team that should concern the Yankees, are the free-spending Dodgers who seem very interested in bringing Kuroda back.
Going by their recent signings and deals, Los Angeles boasts unlimited funds. And until they prove otherwise, that’s the consensus. For the Yankees, who were known for their lofty spending habits just a few years ago, this is a peculiar situation for them because now, they’re on the other side. Either way, if the Dodgers really want Kuroda, they will end up winning any bidding war they muster themselves into because they have the money. And money generally prevails in terms of signing free agents. In the standings, though, money doesn’t guarantee wins.
The winning formula is pitching, and at the moment, the Yanks don’t have it. While keeping Kuroda won’t erase all of their problems, it would be a step in the right direction heading into next year. Given that the Blue Jays just acquired Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle for their rotation, the stakes have just been raised significantly in the AL East. Without Kuroda, the Yankees are in serious danger of losing ground. That is something that Yankees fans simply will not accept.
(*The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com*)
Jake Dal Porto is a Baseball Writer with MLB reports and a student from the Bay Area. Jake’s favorite sports moment was when the Giants won the World Series back in 2010. He loves to use sabermetrics in his work. He thinks they are the best way to show a player’s real success compared to the basic stats such as ERA, RBIs, and Wins. Jake also enjoys interacting and debating with his readers. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @TheJakeMan24
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Posted on November 14, 2012, in MLB Teams: Articles and Analysis and tagged andy pettitte, anibal sanchez, baseball, cc sabathia, free agent, hiroki kuroda, ivan nova, los angeles dodgers, mlb, new york yankees, phil hughes, pitcher, starting pitcher, zack greinke. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.