MLB Free Agency: How the Yankees Re-Signing Hiroki Kuroda Shapes Winter Plans

Doug Rush@Doug_RushSenior Analyst INovember 21, 2012

MLB Free Agency: How the Yankees Re-Signing Hiroki Kuroda Shapes Winter Plans

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    So much for California teams having the edge.

    After weeks of wondering where Hiroki Kuroda would end up, he chose to come back to the Bronx for one more season, as he signed a one-year deal worth $15 million, according to Buster Olney of ESPN.

    Sources: The Yankees have agreed to terms on a one-year contract with Hiroki Kuroda.

    — Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) November 20, 2012

    The 37-year-old Japanese starter was 16-11 with a 3.32 ERA last season and got a raise from the $10 million he made in 2012.

    Kuroda had interest from the Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels, Boston Red Sox, plus his former team in Japan, and for a while it seemed like the two California teams were in the lead to land him for 2013.

    But in the end, he chose to stay in New York.

    So with Kuroda locked up for 2013, how will the Yankees approach the rest of the winter free agency period?

    Let's take a look.

The Yankees Don't Need to Trade for Ricky Nolasco Now

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    After the Miami Marlins-Toronto Blue Jays fire-sale trade that went down this past week, many people started to wonder about the other players on the Miami who could get dealt.

    Two players have been linked to the Yankees already: Giancarlo Stanton and Ricky Nolasco.

    Stanton makes a lot of sense for the Yankees, but trading for Nolasco does not.

    Nolasco has a career 4.49 ERA pitching for an NL East team, and opponents have hit nearly .300 against him in the past two seasons.

    Erik Boland from Newsday had reported the Yankees had interest in trading for Nolasco this winter.

    With the Marlins selling off parts, source says Yankees, not surprisingly, have an interest in Nolasco, who has 1 yr $11.5 mil left on deal

    — Erik Boland (@eboland11) November 14, 2012

    If Kuroda had bolted back to Japan, I could have seen Brian Cashman pursuing this kind of trade.

    But now, after re-signing Kuroda, the Yankees have a complete rotation and don't have to trade for Nolasco. I think adding him would have been a disaster.

Michael Pineda Doesn't Need to Be Rushed Back

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    Many people forget that the same night the Yankees signed Hiroki Kuroda this past winter they made the trade with the Mariners for Michael Pineda.

    Thus far, it has not worked out for the Yankees regarding Pineda, as he has yet to throw a pitch in the regular season for them.

    He tore his labrum, which required surgery, forcing him to miss all of 2012. Then, he got busted for a DUI to top it off.

    He's not expected to be back with the Yankees anytime before June or July, and that's fine.

    Pineda is only 23 years old, and when healthy, can be a very good strikeout pitcher in the Yankees rotation. But the injuries have gotten the better of him over the last year and a half.

    With Kuroda back, though, the Yankees don't have to rush Pineda's rehab. They can give him time to regain his effectiveness, however long that may take.

    For the long term of Pineda's career, that's a really good thing.

They Don't Need to Sign a Free Agent Like Kyle Lohse

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    During the World Series, there were a few rumors circling around about the Yankees' interest in Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse.

    At the time, I had written about how much of a mistake it would be if the Yankees pursued Lohse because his success wouldn't translate to the AL East.

    I think Lohse should find a way to stay in the National League, but like most free agents, he'll be chasing the big free-agent payday.

    His numbers were very attractive in 2012—16-3 with a 2.82 ERA—but that ERA could easily double pitching against teams like the Orioles, Rays and Blue Jays.

    I think with the Yankees keeping Kuroda, it doesn't make sense for them to chase a high-risk starter like Lohse for 2013.

They Could Trade Ivan Nova If They Really Wanted to

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    If you take a look at the Yankees rotation right now, here's how it is constructed:

    CC Sabathia is the ace, Hiroki Kuroda is the No. 2, and the No. 3 spot is being held for Andy Pettitte if he returns.

    That leaves Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes and David Phelps as the remaining starters, and if the Yankees really wanted to, I could see them exploring a deal involving Nova.

    At one time, Nova used to be a prospect that Brian Cashman wouldn't relinquish in a trade. When the Mariners wanted Nova for Cliff Lee two years ago, Cashman showed restraint.

    But now, I think he'd be open to the idea of trading Nova.

    After a good rookie season and getting off to a strong 10-3 start last year, Nova really faded down the stretch with a 2-5 record in his last 11 starts, finishing 12-8 with a 5.02 ERA. He was left off the playoff roster because of his poor performance.

    A pitcher with a 5-plus ERA doesn't exactly make rival GMs want to offer their best prospects, but Nova still has a lot of upside considering he is only 25 years old with some playoff experience and has shown poise pitching in New York.

    I don't think Cashman will aggressively put him on the block, but if a team called asking about Nova's availability, I think he'd listen if he's offered the right deal.

Andy Pettitte Is Still the Key to the Rotation

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    With Hiroki Kuroda coming back, the front part of the Yankees rotation is nearly solidified.

    All that's missing is Andy Pettitte.

    According to The New York Post, he could give the Yankees a timetable regarding his decision sometime this week.

    The general feeling around baseball is that Pettitte will want to return to the Yankees for one more season.

    He was 5-4 with a 2.87 ERA in 12 starts, but missed nearly three months due to a fractured ankle when he took a line drive off it back in late June.

    As a 40-year-old, he didn't look like a pitcher who was washed up during the entire 2011 season; he looked like the same old Andy Pettitte who won games and dominated on the mound.

    The Yankees saw how good Pettitte can still be, especially in big games.

    Without Pettitte, the rotation would have a big void. But with him in it, he makes it that much better, which makes his return extremely vital to 2013.

    Stay tuned, Yankees Universe.


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