Hiroki Kuroda has been the third-best bargain in baseball, according to ESPN Insider and former GM Jim Bowden.
Kuroda, who has emerged as the Yankees' ace, signed a one-year, $15 million contract to remain with the team in the offseason. Heading into Friday night's start against Tampa Bay, Kuroda (11-8) leads the American League in ERA (2.41).
New York Yankees
Kuroda knows how to pitch in tight games, and when he’s given a lead, he has shut down opponents all year. Kuroda gets a lot of his key outs on his split-finger fastball, which he has thrown this year more than ever, according to FanGraphs.com. His ability to pound the strike zone -- especially with the two-seam fastball at the knees and on both sides of the plate -- has been a difference-maker. The only question left for Kuroda is whether he re-signs a multiyear deal with the Yankees, returns to the Dodgers or heads to Japan to finish his career.
The Yankees expected Kuroda to be solid, but we’re not sure they could’ve expected him to have seven starts of at least seven scoreless innings. CC Sabathia is pitching more like a third or fourth starter, while Kuroda has emerged as the team's No. 1.
Given that Kuroda is a free agent at season’s end, the Yankees are going to have to make sure they lock up the 38-year-old. After all, aside from Ivan Nova of late, Kuroda has been their most consistent starter.
Meanwhile, aside from Sabathia and Nova, it’s unknown who will pitch in New York’s rotation next season. Andy Pettitte may elect to retire (again, and this time for good), while Phil Hughes is going to be a free agent. The Yankees can give Hughes a qualifying offer of $14 million, but his performance this season hasn’t given the team any reason to offer him a long-term deal.
Bowden ranked ex-Yankees catcher Russell Martin as the fourth-best bargain in baseball. Martin, who signed a two-year, $17 million contract with the Pirates, is triple-slashing .248/.350/.402 with 11 home runs and 46 RBIs.
For Bowden’s entire list (Insiders only), click here.