(Courtesy of the AP)
The last time we heard about Hiroki Kuroda, reports had him leaning towards returning to Japan next season rather than coming back for another year in MLB. At the time, only the Yankees and Dodgers stood out as realistic MLB options if Kuroda decided to stick around for 1 more season and the Yankees, at least based on their early lack of communication with Kuroda, didn't seem to have Hirok high on their priority list.
In the last few weeks, that landscape may have changed to shift back towards Kuroda returning to the Yanks in 2014. The Dodgers recently signed Dan Haren to a 1-year/$10 million deal, making Kuroda much less of a priority for them. And in a story for The Post a week ago, Joel Sherman reported that the Yankees were "more upbeat" about the possibility of Kuroda coming back than they were earlier in the offseason. Cash's stated need for 400 innings still hasn't been addressed and the continued delays in the new NPB posting agreement is keeping the Yankees from making their push for Masahiro Tanaka, so the match is very clearly there.
As for the decision to re-sign Hirok, I'm still torn. As I stated in early November, I think another $15 mil or more is a lot to commit to a pitcher in his late 30s who's shown signs of decline in the second half of each of the last 2 seasons. Adding that number to the payroll will hamper the team's ability to go after other free agent pieces, if they are still planning on staying below the luxury tax threshold that is, and they may be better served going after another younger free agent pitcher whose contract AAV will come in below that $15 mil mark.
The Yankees are now the runaway favorites to land Kuroda if he does ultimately decide to come back for another MLB season next year. But they may not be as obvious a candidate to commit to re-signing him as they were last offseason. With the bulk of their focus still on Robbie Cano and various outfield targets, I expect they'll hold off on making a decision to re-sign Hirok until later in the month.