One thing that popped up a few times during yesterday’s chat was a basically impossible-to-answer question about Hiroki Kuroda. Specifically, what are the chances of him wanting to come back to the Yankees and re-signing next season?
Problem is, he’s difficult to read, and he has basically every option in front of him — could come back to the Yankees, could go back to Japan, could sign back with the Dodgers or some other American team — and it’s hard to get any real sense of where he’s leaning.
“Anything is possible,” Kuroda said on the final day of the season. “(Retirement) is something I have to consider, too.”
There has been a perception ever since his arrival in New York — maybe even before that, I don’t know — that Kuroda would like to finish his career with one more season in Japan, and that he’d like that to be a good season. The idea was that Kuroda would want to leave Major League Baseball when he felt he had one more good season left in him.
“I haven’t really considered finishing my career in Japan or playing my last year in Japan,” he said. “I always take one year at a time. Anything’s possible, but that’s not particularly something that I plan to do.”
As for the Yankees wanting him back, Brian Cashman made it clear this week that the Yankees would like to re-sign Kuroda. He’s pitched more than 200 innings each of the past two seasons, and his year-by-year ERA — 3.32 and 3.31 — have been nearly identical, giving some sense of his overall consistency since coming to New York. Of course, a closer look shows a 5.40 ERA in the final two months of this season, and a 4.71 in the final month of 2012. Kuroda turns 39 in February, and he’s pitched a lot lately.
“He’s thrown a lot of innings,” Joe Girardi said. “And I’ve said that his sinker was not quite the same, and his slider wasn’t quite the same. The first year we had him, it happened a little bit in April, the inconsistency, and then he really locked it in the rest of the year. And then this year, he came out great and it happened at the end of the year. It could be a combination of a lot of things: All the innings the last two of years, fatigue, it could be a combination of a lot of things, but no one ever really knows.”
Could a workload similar to Andy Pettitte’s final season — basically held below 100 pitches every time — keep Kuroda productive late into the season? That seems possible, and there was a point this season when it seemed Kuroda would appear on several Cy Young ballots, so the best-case scenario is pretty good. And the free agent pitching market isn’t overwhelming.
“When I make that decision (about whether to come back), I should look at the whole year instead of only the last few weeks or months,” Kuroda said. “I should look at the whole season and think whether I should make that decision for next year. Obviously I have to talk to my family. … One thing I can tell is, as a player, it’s not for me to make an offer. So obviously I have to wait until someone makes an offer, then I will have to think about what to do.”
Associated Press photo