Re-signing Hiroki Kuroda was absolutely necessary. In a year where the Yankees will pretty obviously not give a second year to any player who might be the least bit expensive, Kuroda was literally the only obvious chance to sign a front-end pitcher and he was signed for almost the exact amount previously predicted here.
Not signing the righty would have meant less assurance of an Andy Pettitte return, no number two starter and panic inside and outside of the front office.
Signing Kuroda means it’s all of a sudden rationale to assume the return of Pettitte and Mariano Rivera for one last season, two extra picks in this year’s draft, no money forwarded to 2014, a full rotation before December and semblance of a contender next year.
New York is now guaranteed to go to battle with: CC Sabathia, Kuroda, Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova and David Phelps on Opening Day barring injury. In accordance with how Brian Cashman traditionally builds his pitching staff, it’s likely Pettitte comes back and Cashman goes and signs a veteran innings eater at a low cost on a one year deal as well.
Rivera’s return to the bullpen along with a healthy David Aardsma and a couple of other depth signings means it would be wisest to have Phelps act as a depth starter instead of a depth reliever, with Michael Pineda waiting in the wings as an X factor and already throwing off of flat ground.
That would mean eight starting pitchers plus whatever prospects (Adam Warren) would be Major League ready in 2013. With Aardsma, Rivera, Dave Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, Boone Logan, Clay Rapada, Cody Eppley and others, the Yankees already have formidable pieces on the roster for another elite bullpen.
Now New York can pretty much turn the focus towards the offense. At this point it seems most likely Ichiro Suzuki remains the most logical piece to serve as a one year stopgap for Nick Swisher in right field.
Ichiro is a lefty in Yankee Stadium, plays above average defense and adds a speed element only offered by Brett Gardner. An outfield of Gardner, Curtis Granderson (moving to left with Gardner in center) and Ichiro would be elite defensively and Gardner and Ichiro don’t strike out much, which will come in handy in this lineup.
Depending on how the year goes, the Yankees could trade off Granderson (who will hopefully be sold with higher value) for some more prospects and then use money from: Ichiro, Rivera, Hughes, Russell Martin (who will likely be resigned for one year) Granderson, Kuroda and Pettitte to extend Cano, replace two out fielders and hope a catcher from the system is ready in 2014 along with at least one starter.
If Nova can recover from a sophomore slump and Hughes can build on a strong finish and excellent playoff showing in 2012, the Yankees should have a solid and deep pitching staff and a balanced offense. That would imply still being the team to beat in the increasingly competitive American League East, while managing money more effectively.
Regardless of how both those goals turn out, resigning Kuroda was the key to the offseason. Expect Rivera and Pettitte to sign before Christmas following up the Kuroda announcement.