Yankees “more upbeat” about potential return of free agent right-hander Hiroki Kuroda

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The Yankees signed free agent catcher Brian McCann to a five-year, $85 million contract on Saturday evening. And there may be more positive developments on the way for Bronx Bombers fans.

Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes Sunday that the Yankees’ higher-ups “have moved from gloomy early in the offseason to more upbeat that Hiroki Kuroda will return for another year.” The free agent right-hander turns 39 years old in February and was thought to be considering a return to his native Japan. If the Yankees can get him back on a low-risk one-year pact, it’d take some pressure off a pitching-needy team in a market without frontline options.

Kuroda struggled down the stretch in 2013, but he still wound up with a cool 3.31 ERA (122 ERA+) in 201 1/3 innings for the season and he boasts a 3.24 ERA over his last 623 major league frames.

Pirates hire Ben Cherington as their new general manager

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The Pittsburgh Pirates have hired Ben Cherington as the team’s new general manager. They do so after the general manager meetings ended, but better late than never.

Cherington served as GM of the Boston Red Sox for four years, winning the World Series in 2013, but resigned during the 2015 season after Dave Dombrowski was named Boston’s new president of baseball operations. Which was a defacto demotionn for Cherington who, until then, had the final say in baseball decisions. Dombrowski, of course, was fired late in the season this year. Cherington went on to work for the Toronto Blue Jays as a vice president, but was seen as biding his time for another GM position. Now he has one.

Cherington takes over in Pittsburgh for executive vice president and general manager Neal Huntington, who was fired after a 12 years at the helm. Also fired was team president Frank Coonelly. Travis Williams replaced Coonelly recently. While the Pirates experienced a few years of contention under Huntington and Coonelly, they have slid out of contention in recent years as the club has traded away promising players for little return, all while cutting payroll. There’s a very big rebuilding job ahead of Cherington.

The first move he’ll have to make: hire a manager, as the team still hasn’t replaced Clint Hurdle since he was dismissed in the final weekend of the regular season.