We all know Hal Steinbrenner has set a goal of cutting the Yankees' payroll to $189 million for 2014. Your duty as a Yankees fan is to make sure he doesn't achieve that goal, and our job at ESPNNewYork.com is to provide you with reasons to make sure he doesn't. Hey, it's Hal's money, not yours. With that in mind, we are going to examine potential free-agent and trade candidates in a new feature we call, appropriately, "Spend Hal's Money."
Today's Candidate: Hiroki Kuroda
Position: Starting Pitcher
Age: Turns 39 on Feb. 10, 2014
2013 numbers: 11-13, 3.31 in 32 starts for the Yankees
Expected going rate: Kuroda made $15 million on a one-year deal with the Yankees in 2013. Can't imagine he would re-sign for anything less than that for 2014.
The Pros: For the first four months of the season, there was no question about who the Yankees' best starting pitcher was. Through July, Kuroda was 10-6 with a 2.38 ERA and while a Cy Young was unlikely because of a proliferation of terrific AL starting pitching this year, he certainly belonged in the conversation. Threw a complete-game shutout on April 14 and could be counted on to pitch into the seventh inning virtually every time out. Seamlessly took over the role vacated by CC Sabathia, and while he may not have single-handedly kept the Yankees in the race, he was a big part of why they were still in contention as late as August 1. For the first 22 starts of the season, Kuroda was a consummate pro who could stabilize a shaky rotation.
The Cons: As good as Kuroda was for the first four months, that's how bad he was over the last two. In August and September, Kuroda went 1-7 with a 5.40 ERA and suddenly became shockingly hittable; after allowing just 12 HRs and 36 extra-base hits in his first 22 starts, gave up 8 HRs and 33 XBH over his last 10. The Yankees speculated that the innings load had worn him down, but his ineffectiveness began when he had barely pitched 140 innings, raising suspicions that he was injured, or worse, that his age had caught up with him. Combined with a September Swoon in 2012, his first season as a Yankee, it made you wonder if he would be effective as a postseason pitcher should the Yankees rebound next season.
The Verdict: If there were a stronger crop of free-agent pitchers available this winter, it would be a lot easier to say thank you to Kuroda and bid him farewell. However, the pitchers who will be out there -- Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito, Dan Haren, Bronson Arroyo, and yes, A.J. Burnett and Bartolo Colon, among others, are all suspect in one way or another, and most are likely to command multi-year deals. Kuroda's history is to seek a one-year deal, so if the Yankees can buy time by bringing him back for one more season, it might be worth the risk, especially with Andy Pettitte's $12 million salary coming off the books. Any more than that, forget about it.
What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments.