Yesterday, I looked back at the worst one-year contracts ever handed out by Brian Cashman in his career. We often remember the bad things that happen, but it’s important to also talk about the good. It’s only fair now that we look back at the five best one-year deals this time.
Hiroki Kuroda (2012-2014)
Yes, this is cheating, but I don’t care. The three one-year deals that Cashman gave to Hiroki Kuroda were some of the best free agent contracts he has given out. If I had to choose one year, I’d go with 2012 because it was the cheapest contract, it was his best year, and it was the most innings he ever pitched, but all these deals belong up here.
Prior to the 2012 season, the Yankees were in need of some guaranteed innings. They traded A.J. Burnett in the offseason, and Phil Hughes’ 2011 season was a disaster. Kuroda may have already been 37 by the time he came to New York, but he proved to be the team’s best pitcher while CC Sabathia’s career cratered. That $10 million contract provided more value than anyone expected.
Of course, the success of 2012 led to repeat performances in 2013 and 2014, albeit at the higher price of $15 and $16 million. The team proved to be terrible over that span, though Kuroda was a much-needed bright spot during that time. His status as staff ace was taken over by Masahiro Tanaka in 2014, but the injury to CC made him indispensable once again.
Though Kuroda ultimately chose to return to Japan for the 2015 season, I feel like the Yankees could have done more to keep him in the Bronx. I was sorry to see it end.
Freddy Garcia (2011)
I already spoke about Freddy Garcia’s 2012 season yesterday, but it’s important to give credit where it is due. Brian Cashman brought in some old dudes to come compete for jobs, and the Yankees got more value than they paid for from Garcia.
In 2012, Sabathia was still good, Burnett was his typical trash self, and Pettitte had retired. The Yankees needed another reliable arm, and for for just $1.5 million, they got their second-best starting pitcher for the season. He had a 3.63 ERA with a 4.12 FIP over 146.2 innings at the age of 34. It was exactly what the team needed and Cashman should get a lot of credit for this signing, even though we all doubted the idea at first.
Andy Pettitte (2010)
After a stint in Houston, Andy Pettitte returned to the Yankees and went year-to-year from 2007 through 2013. He did well over those years, even if the results were never as incredible as Kuroda’s over the life of his Yankees career.
In 2010, what we all thought would be his final season, Pettitte was on an $11.7 million contract. He put together a 3.28 ERA with a 3.85 FIP in 129 innings, earning himself his third All-Star appearance. He led the Yankees to the ALCS that year, dueling Cliff Lee to the very end before they were ultimately eliminated. It would have been a bittersweet way to end his career, but as we all know, Pettitte wasn’t done just yet.
Raul Ibanez (2012)
Raul Ibanez was never supposed to hold such a memorable place in the annals of Yankees history. Brian Cashman brought him in on a $1 million contract to play off the bench and run into a few dingers. Just a few games into the season, Ibanez was already the team’s starting left fielder.
Brett Gardner injured his elbow diving for a ball in April. With no backup plan, Ibanez was forced to take the field—something everyone was afraid to see. While the fielding was atrocious, as expected, he was still able to hold the fort with a .240/.308/.453 batting line and 19 home runs. He even made memories in the 2012 playoffs by hitting two big home runs against the Orioles in the ALDS that year.
There are certainly players who did better on a one-year deal, but his importance to the team that year gives this deal the nod.
Mariano Rivera (2013)
This barely counts but it is easy to forget that Mariano Rivera signed a one-year deal to return in 2013 and bring his career to an end on the right foot. We don’t need to talk about what happened during the 2012 season, but Mo returned the next year to give us a proper goodbye.
Cashman signed him to a $10 million deal, and the rest was history. He pitched to a 2.11 ERA with 44 saves in 64 innings, which was actually his worst season since 2007, if you can believe it. I don’t take off points because of that, but I do take off points because it is Mariano Rivera and you give him what he wants.
Honorable Mentions: Orlando Hernandez (2004), Tino Martinez (2005), Andruw Jones (2011), Bartolo Colon (2011), Eric Chavez (2012)