Sunday, December 28, 2014

Yankees lose old safety net in Kuroda

Hiroki Kuroda did the same thing he did each of the last two offseasons; he went home to Japan to contemplate what he’d do the following season. His previous decisions took time to formulate but Kuroda eventually opted to return to the Bronx. This time he's staying put in Japan as Kuroda signed with the Hiroshima Carp of the Nippon Professional Baseball league, the team he began his professional career with.

Kuroda had been the Yankees most consistent and durable pitcher since 2012, going 38-33 with a 3.44 ERA (3.68 FIP). He tossed 620 innings across 97 starts during his three years in New York. While pitchers continually went down with injuries in 2014, Kuroda, at 39-years-old, was the one constant.

The level of the Yankees' desire to re-sign Kuroda is uncertain as general manager Brian Cashman recently said that he’d been in touch with Kuroda but the pitcher had given no indication of his decision at the time. However, it became apparent that the Yankees might have moved forward without Kuroda in mind when they signed Chris Capuano and traded for Nathan Eovaldi.

I had felt that the Yankees might want to re-sign Kuroda in an effort to give them some veteran depth and someone who they thought could provide consistent innings. The price would not have been cheap but the term would have been short and given the breadth of injury issues that could beset the rotation, I believed Kuroda would have been a comfortable piece to rely on for durability.

It remains to be seen if Kuroda even gave the Yankees a thought this offseason knowing he was getting up there in age and that he'd eventually want to finish his career in Japan. With the Yankees in transition, it's not difficult to assume that Kuroda was not going to come back to the states without feeling that the team could win a championship.

Right now this is not that team. There are more questions than answers, and in my book losing Kuroda is hardly detrimental to the team's chances of a successful 2015. In fact, his presence might have adversely affected the progress of players like Bryan Mitchell and Manny Banuelos, who should get some time at the big league level this season.

In sticking with the mantra of youth over aging veterans the Yankees continue to defy the pessimists to their plans. Kuroda just made it easier on them by making the decision himself and not allowing the Yankees the tempation to sign a previously valued safety net.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance sports writer and sports media strategist. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.