Over 26 starts, he boasts an 11-9 record and 2.71 ERA through 166.1 innings. Last season, his first with the Yankees, was also very good. He went 16-11 with a 3.32 ERA over 219.2 innings.
In his first season with the Bombers, Kuroda earned $10 million on a one-year contract. To retain him this past offseason, general manager Brian Cashman upped the contract to $15 million for one year.
Now that he's scheduled to be a free agent again in just a few months, would the Yankees have to increase their offer by another $5 million?
A Yankees official told him that $20 million could be the only way to keep Kuroda from retiring at age 39 or jumping ship to the highest bidder. He would be the best free-agent starter available and teams would line up to sign him.
There have been rumors—such as this one from Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal—that Kuroda is seriously considering a return to Japan before retirement. Though they were dispelled by the pitcher himself, this represents a legitimate threat to the Yankees, as it seems like a plausible reason not to have signed a multi-year contract.
He wouldn't be pitching in Japan for the money, but an extra $20 million in his bank account could be simply too much to turn down.
The Yankees may have to deal with re-signing Robinson Cano this offseason, but the Kuroda negotiations need to be prioritized as well. Just take a look at what the pitching staff would look like without him.
Phil Hughes is likely gone via free agency and Andy Pettitte may retire after an inconsistent season.
This leaves CC Sabathia, David Phelps, Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova. Sabathia looks like a shell of his former self, Phelps posted a 5.01 ERA before injuring himself this season, Pineda hasn't pitched in the bigs in almost two full years and Nova is infamous for being as inconsistent as they come—even if he's pitched very well of late.
Then, who pitches in the No. 5 spot? Vidal Nuno? Adam Warren? Nik Turley? These guys aren't ready for full-time gigs just yet.
The Yankees need Kuroda to anchor the pitching staff. Sabathia could be in the middle of a fluke season, but if he's not, then the Yankees will need an ace. Kuroda has proven he can be that.
On a team for which money isn't always an issue, $20 million is a must to retain its best starting pitcher. Look for Kuroda to be torn between retirement from the MLB and a $5 million pay raise this offseason.