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The Yankees should re-sign Hiroki Kuroda

Who cares if he's old?

Leon Halip

I feel like we keep asking ourselves each year whether Hiroki Kuroda can stand the test of time, and each year he answers that question with an emphatic "Yes". Kuroda has had one of the stranger careers I can think of just because he was good-but-not-great in Japan for his prime years, and emerged in the United States as one of the better (if not one of the most underrated) pitchers in MLB. From 2008 to 2014, Kuroda ranks 20th in fWAR. His closest fWAR companion is... Mark Buehrle.

That whole preface is of course leading up to my claim that the Yankees should re-sign Kuroda. If one were to assess whether this is a good idea, one would have to ask themselves three questions: Is he too old? Will he be good? How much will he cost?

Hiroki Kuroda, I would argue, is not too old. The Yankees will have finished this season with a slew of young pitchers on their roster at one point--Michael Pineda, Masahiro Tanaka, Shane Greene, David Phelps, and Ivan Nova. Often times the best-laid plans do not work out as planned. Kuroda, even though he was the oldest pitcher in the rotation, was the last man standing from the Opening Day rotation. Youth is certainly great on the aggregate because younger players tend to be healthier than older players, but I also think that track record is an important piece. In his time in MLB, Kuroda has missed a total of 103 games, 93 of which were before 2010. And if you look at pitchers in the past 20 years who have pitched in their age 40 season, only 9 of 25 threw fewer than 150 innings. Pitchers don't make it this far due to luck.

Kuroda will probably be decent. He won't be like the 2013 version of himself, but I think 100-110 FIP- is reasonable. Oliver projects him for a 2.3 fWAR season, which isn't half-bad. With so many questions in the rotation for 2015, I think Kuroda is a safe pick to do pretty well. With the free agent market as it stands, replacing his two wins would be pretty expensive. That leads me into cost.

I think that a good model for Kuroda's cost is Bartolo Colon's contract. Colon was handed a two year, $20 million contract after an excellent age 40 season, even though he has a long history of injuries and a four-year span where he was pretty terrible. Kuroda does not have that history whatsoever but is not as good as Colon, I think. There is of course the question of whether Kuroda will even want to play next year, but I think a decent deal could sway him. Anything less than $15 million is a bargain given the value of a win in today's market.

There's an obsession among Yankee fans to move towards youth, geared toward some sentimentality regarding the "sustainability" of the dynasty years. But what they often forget is that a certain aged player does not win games, good players do. Hiroki Kuroda, regardless of his age, is a good player with a great performance and injury track record. That is what wins games.