By RONALD BLUM
NEW YORK — Trying to get under baseball’s luxury tax by 2014, the New York Yankees don’t mind spending big as long as it’s on one-year deals.
New York filled one of the slots in its rotation Tuesday, agreeing to a $15 million, one-year contract with No. 2 starter Hiroki Kuroda as they await a decision from Andy Pettitte on whether he wants to return in 2013.
“It something that I think fits how we’ve operated here in the last number of years, to do short-term circumstances on high-end players,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said.
The Yankees will pay the luxury tax on high payrolls for the 10th straight season this year and will hand over more tax money in 2013. But they say they want to get under 2014’s threshold of $189 million, which would enable them to get some of their revenue-sharing dollars back. That’s why a one-year deal made sense for Kuroda, a right-hander who turns 38 in February.
He was the Yankees’ most consistent pitcher during the regular season. He went 16-11, tying for the team lead in wins, and led New York with 33 starts and 219 2-3 innings.
Cashman called the agreement “a relief.”
“Hiroki Kuroda chose us on a lesser deal last year and I suspect he’s done the same again this year,” Cashman said. “By coming here, I suspect that he left money on the table. I suspect it was a very aggressive market on him, and I think it is a reflection of he really enjoyed playing here for this city, for this team, for this organization and with these teammates to come back under the circumstances he’s coming back on.”
After losing six of his first nine decisions, Kuroda finished with a 3.32 ERA that was second among New York starters behind Pettitte’s 2.87.
“I am very happy and excited to re-sign with the Yankees,” Kuroda said in a statement. “I am very grateful for all of the interest and all of the offers that I received from the various teams that courted me. It was a tough decision for me to make, but at the end of the day, I wanted to try to win a championship with the teammates that I went to battle with last season.”
Kuroda joined the Yankees after four seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, was given a $10 million base salary last season and earned $1 million more in performance bonuses based on innings. He turned down a $13.3 million qualifying offer from the Yankees, and he would have cost a new team a selection in June’s amateur draft.
He joins CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova in the Yankees’ projected starting rotation for next season, with David Phelps also a possibility.
Pettitte, who came out of retirement to rejoin the Yankees, hasn’t decided whether he wants to play next year. Cashman won’t say how long he’ll wait.
“Of course, obviously, there’s an answer to that question but not one I’m prepared to answer,” he said.