The Yankees may have lost Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson today, but at least one free agent will be returning to New York. Hiroki Kuroda will earn $16 million next season, with an opportunity to earn $500,000 more in innings incentives. It's a slight raise for the 39-year-old righty, who made $15 million this past season.
This is the third one-year contract Kuroda has signed with the Yankees, preferring to keep his options open after every year. Just like the past two years, Kuroda's free agency this winter came with a caveat — the only teams he would likely sign with were in the Bronx, Southern California or Japan. Kuroda's family still resides in SoCal from his days with the Dodgers, and there was legitimate worry from the Yankees that Kuroda would have liked to conclude his professional career where it started, with the Hiroshima Carp. Any Major League team that wasn't the Yankees would have had to give up their first round pick to sign Kuroda, too, after he turned down the Yankees' qualifying offer.
Despite his age, Kuroda looks to have quite a bit left in the tank — he's posted the two of his three best fWAR totals of his career while in pinstripes, and his ERA has consistently beat his FIP numbers. While CC Sabathia struggled in 2013, an argument could be made that Kuroda was the Yankees' ace this past season, posting a 3.31 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 3.49. He's also been a lock for at least 30 starts a year, hitting that mark in five of his six MLB seasons, and topping 200 innings in each of the past three years.
He'll join Sabathia and Ivan Nova in the Yankees' 2014 rotation, and with Cano leaving for Seattle, the Yankees may now have the cash to make a serious run at Masahiro Tanaka, too. And Ubaldo Jimenez. Hey, maybe even Ervin Santana. They do still have to replace Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes.
The point is that even with all of the money New York has spent already — now $271 million total on Kuroda, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Derek Jeter and Brendan Ryan — they have even more available money to spend. If Alex Rodriguez's suspension holds and his salary is also wiped off the books, there's no telling just how crazy Brian Cashman goes.