Plenty of items remain on the Yankees' offseason to-do list. But they crossed off one important task last night after re-signing pitcher Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year deal worth $15 million.
"I am very happy and excited to re-sign with the Yankees," Kuroda said in a statement.
Kuroda turned down the Yankees' $13.3 million qualifying offer before testing the free- agent market. He also had weighed a return to Japan, where he intends to wind down his career. But Kuroda returned to the Yankees, who lavished him with a healthy raise.
"I am very grateful for all of the interest and all of the offers that I received from the various teams that courted me," Kuroda said.
Managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner stretched the team's budget last offseason to sign Kuroda for $10 million. After four years with the Dodgers, Kuroda faced questions about how he would adjust to the American League. He responded by flourishing.
He set career bests in starts (33), victories (16), strikeouts (167) and innings pitched (2192/3), while posting a 3.32 ERA, the lowest in the starting rotation.
"He can play a really important role here as he did last year," general manager Brian Cashman said. "It's a short- term deal that provides flexibility as we move forward and gives us an important, valuable arm to our rotation."
The arrangement works well for both sides. The one-year contract means Kuroda's salary won't impact the Yankees' efforts to get under Steinbrenner's $189 million payroll ceiling in 2014. Meanwhile, the one-year deal grants Kuroda flexibility in his personal plans.
"I suspect it was a very aggressive market for him. It should have been," said Cashman, who believes Kuroda might have bypassed more lucrative offers to stay in New York. "By coming here, I suspect he left money on the table."
With Kuroda in the fold, the Yankees can move down their remaining offseason checklist.
That includes re-signing lefthander Andy Pettitte, who has yet to officially inform the team whether he will return, though he's expected to pitch again. It also includes re-signing closer Mariano Rivera, who is in negotiations with the Yankees, though Cashman said he has "nothing to report" about the talks.
Cashman expects shortstop Derek Jeter to be ready for Opening Day. The Yankees captain is coming off ankle surgery. Cashman said pitcher Michael Pineda is in "great physical shape in terms of body weight." The righthander is coming off shoulder surgery and likely won't be ready until May or June.
The Yankees added six players to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 draft. They added righties Brett Marshall and Jose Ramirez, lefties Manny Banuelos, Francisco Rondon and Nik Turley and outfielder Ramon Flores.
The team claimed righthander Mickey Storey off waivers and also signed righthander David Herndon to a split contract, according to his agent. The former Phillies reliever is coming off Tommy John surgery and likely won't be ready to pitch until June.