Hiroki Kuroda to Remain with the New York Yankees and What It Means for 2013

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Hiroki Kuroda to Remain with the New York Yankees and What It Means for 2013
Elsa/Getty Images
Japanese RHP Hiroki Kuroda is returning to the New York Yankees for 2013

Any signs of panic in Yankees Universe concerning the outlook for the 2013 season can be eased for the time being.

According to ESPN's Buster Olney, the New York Yankees have signed Japanese right-hander Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year, $15 million contract. The contract includes incentives for just under $1 million

Kuroda was a success in his first year in the American League, going 16-11 with a 3.32 ERA and a 126 ERA+. The 37-year-old set an MLB career-high in innings and starts and also pitched well in the postseason for the Yankees, even without any run support. 

Words can't describe how huge this move is. Kuroda was the guy who pitched the Yankees through a rough summer filled with injuries to guys like Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and fellow starters CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte

Around the time the injuries to Sabathia and Pettitte came (late June), Kuroda was sitting at just 6-7 with a 3.57 ERA, much like his days with the Dodgers. After that, from June 25, he went 10-4 with a 3.15 ERA. From July 18 to the end of August, he went 4-3, but with a 1.99 ERA in nine starts without CC and Andy. 

When September came around, the fatigue in setting a new career-high in innings seemed to kick in, as he went 4-1 but with a 4.71 ERA in 36.1 IP. In the playoffs, however, he reverted to the July-August Kuroda, allowing just five runs in 16 innings. He could have easily won both starts, but the Yankees offense failed to support him, much like every game in the postseason. 

The Yankees needed to bring this guy back badly. Without him, the Yankees rotation for this upcoming season was looking like this:

Al Bello/Getty Images
Kuroda was a top priority for the Yankees this past offseason

 

LHP CC Sabathia

RHP Phil Hughes

RHP Ivan Nova

RHP David Phelps

RHP Adam Warren

With Sabathia possibly a future liability concerning his health, combined with the inconsistencies of Nova and Hughes as well as the inexperience of Phelps and Warren, the Bombers needed Kuroda's veteran presence back in the rotation.

He once again becomes a reliable No. 2 man behind Sabathia, who has shown he can pitch in Yankee Stadium despite being a right-hander and having previously spent four years on Chavez Ravine. 

With this move, it likely re-opens the possibility of the return of both Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, who will also be crucial to the fate of the Yankees in 2013.

Pettitte is once again trying to decide between retirement and baseball. As always, if it is baseball, it is the Yankees. He will likely agree to a contract that is favorable to the Yankees' future payroll plan.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Could Kuroda's return green light the signings of Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera?

Mariano, on the other hand, is a bit of a different story. He has already told GM Brian Cashman that he wishes to return, especially after having his season end to a knee injury during ball shagging in Kansas City back in May.

The Yankees will want to bring him back, but on terms favorable to them. Hopefully for them, Rivera will be agreeable and be willing to take a pay cut after making $15 million for the past five seasons.

The Yankees will need him because it looks as if they will not be bringing back Rafael Soriano, who did a fantastic and invaluable job as his replacement this year.

If both are to return to New York in 2013, the rotation and bullpen will likely look like this, baring any big moves:

 

Rotation

LHP CC Sabathia

RHP Hiroki Kuroda

LHP Andy Pettitte

RHP Phil Hughes

RHP Ivan Nova

Elsa/Getty Images
The Yankees pitching staff will continue to be a strength if everyone is back

 

Bullpen

Closer: Mariano Rivera

Setup: David Robertson

LOOGY: Boone Logan

LOOGY: Clay Rapada

RHP: Joba Chamberlain

RHP: Cody Eppley

RHP: David Phelps

RHP: David Aardsma 

 

Like this past year, still a very solid pitching staff that will rank among the best in the American League, especially if guys like Mo and Aardsma are healthy and Hughes and Nova improve on 2012.

Keep in mind that if Hughes or Nova are to regress even further next year, fire-baller Michael Pineda should be ready by June to take their place in the rotation

Also, considering the Yankees' future plans considering their payroll, it's cheaper than it could be. 

Kuroda's re-signing not only means the possible return of Pettitte and Rivera; it means the Yankees' chances of a World Series run is more possible than it was yesterday.

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