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Big League Stew

Hiroki Kuroda returns to Yankees for $15 million

David Brown
Big League Stew

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Resisting overtures from teams in Southern California, along with the lure of returning home to finish his career, right-hander Hiroki Kuroda reportedly has agreed to a $15 million contract with the New York Yankees for the 2013 season. Buster Olney of ESPN reported the deal first. By staying put, Kuroda gets a 50 percent raise but also rejects what probably were longer offers from the Dodgers and Angels. Kuroda also turns 38 in February and could have gone back to Japan.

Instead, the Yankees keep an indispensable part of their rotation — probably their best pitcher in 2012. Kuroda finished with a 3.32 ERA (eighth in the AL) and 165 strikeouts in 219 innings (fourth in the AL).

While $15 million sounds like (and is) a lot of money, Kuroda is a decent bet to be worth it. Consider, for a comparison: The Royals are paying Ervin Santana $13 million next season. Yankees' GM Brian Cashman, via reporter Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News, says Kuroda would have made more money elsewhere:

"I suspect that he left money on the table. I suspect it was a very aggressive market on him. I think it was a reflection that he really enjoyed playing here for this city, for this team, for this organization and with these teammates. We stretched, too, to make it happen."

Considering that Sabathia is coming off elbow surgery (even if it's relatively minor, for removal of a bone spur), left-hander Andy Pettitte turns 41 in June and the rest of New York's starters aren't as stable, Cashman needed to pony up the cash for Kuroda. He's not sexy, but he is dependable. He has made 147 starts the past five seasons since coming over to the Dodgers in 2008.

Yahoo! Sports' own Tim Brown adds that Kuroda coming off the free-agent market will put pressure on the Angels and Dodgers to sign Zack Greinke, or continue down the free-agent ladder to someone else. With Kuroda locked down for '12, the Yankees won't have to worry about handing out a long-term deal for a pitcher. Cashman, you've done it again!

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