To Qualify Or Not To Qualify: Hiroki Kuroda

Hirok vs TOR On Tuesday we weighed the cases for and against making David Robertson a qualifying offer this offseason.  Today we do the same for the other potential qualifying offer candidate, reliable right-handed starter Hiroki Kuroda.

Case For:

  • Consistent Very Good Performance- In his 3 seasons as a Yankee, Kuroda ranks 12th in MLB in IP (620.0), T-12th in BB rate (5.1%), T-20th in WHIP (1.15), and 18th in fWAR (11.0), with a 3.44/3.68/.360 slash line.
  • Consistency Within The Consistency- Made 33, 32, and 32 starts in his 3 Yankee seasons; pitched between 199-220 regular season innings in each season; had ERAs between 3.31-3.71, FIPs between 3.56-3.86, and xFIPS between 3.54-3.67 in each season; K rate between 17.8%-18.7% in each season; 11+ wins in each season; 3-year fWAR values of 3.7, 3.8, and 3.5
  • Rotation Health Questions- Tanaka, Pineda, Sabathia, and Nova all enter 2015 with health-related concerns.  Kuroda hasn't been hurt in his 3 years.
  • Competition/Protection- Kuroda still hasn't decided if he wants to retire from MLB baseball to return to Japan.  If he decides to play 1 more year, there's always the chance he will want to do it in LA to be closer to his family.  Attaching draft pick compensation gives the Yanks the advantage over LA.

Case Against:

  • Age- Turns 40 next February.  The Yankees are already feeling the effects of having too many old players on big money deals.
  • Increasing Health Concerns- Even though he's never been hurt, Kuroda has shown the tendency to slow down in the second half.  His age naturally makes him a greater injury risk, and the Yankees took steps to cut his workload down this season.  They might not want to take the risk again.
  • Availability of Cheap Internal Pitching Depth- Yanks have Shane Greene and David Phelps on the 25-man already, ManBan, Bryan Mitchell, and possibly Chase Whitley in the Triple-A rotation, and Luis Severino in Double-A.
  • Cost- Kuroda pitched on $15 and $16 million 1-year deals in 2013.  It will take something around that to bring him back and there's a greater chance that he could accept the deal, which could impact the team's ability to spend money on other roster needs.

Hirok isn't as clear cut a "yay" decision for extending an qualifying offer as D-Rob is, at least that's what I'm gathering from the general Yankee fan consensus.  The age-related concerns are much greater and the money seems to be a bigger issue with Kuroda than for Robertson.

I'm a Kuroda guy, I always have been, so to me it makes perfect sense to make him the offer.  If he retires and goes back to Japan, NBD.  If he stays in MLB but goes back to the West Coast, that's an extra draft pick.  If he accepts or the team works out a new 1-year deal with him, then the Yankees can plug a reliable, proven, above-average starter into the #2 or #3 spot of next year's rotation.  The only bad scenario is one in which they don't make the offer and he leaves for LA without compensation attached, and that only becomes a bad scenario if the Yanks choose to not make the offer.

All that said, I see the other side of the money argument.  Penciling Hirok in for another year at 15-ish mil probably kills the chances of the team re-signing Brandon McCarthy, and long-term it would be better to have him for 3 years than Hirok for 1.  It would also be better to have McCarthy or another FA pitcher along with guys who can play third base and shortstop than Hirok and an alternate plan at third (A-Rod full time) or maybe even Hirok and no D-Rob.

In a perfect world, the Yankee front office wouldn't let any 1-year deal prevent them from addressing other areas of roster need.  In reality, that may be something that happens, and if it does they are better equipped to fill in their rotation on the cheap than they are the rest of the roster.  Having Hirok back on a QO or new 1-year deal next season would be a great safety net for the rest of the rotation and that's why I would make him the offer.  It just might end up being a safety net the team "can't afford."