A year after Hiroki Kuroda left millions of dollars on the table to return to Japan and rejoin the Hiroshima Carp, the Central League club made him Nippon Professional Baseball's highest-paid player on Thursday.

"I was rated more highly than I imagined," Kuroda said. "I was told it was more than just results, that I had been a positive for the team in various areas."

Kuroda, who will turn 41 in February, received a ¥200 million (roughly $1.63 million) raise for a 2016 salary of ¥600 million plus additional incentives. He went 11-8 last season with a 2.55 ERA that ranked seventh best in the CL.

The right-hander had been pondering retirement, but told the Carp a week ago he would play for at least another year.

"Make no mistake, I believe (this is) a team that can aspire to win a championship," said Kuroda whose 79 wins over eight big league seasons and 114 in 12 NPB campaigns puts him within reach of Japan's treasured 200-win milestone.

"Because I really hadn't thought about that (200 wins), the idea of retiring had crossed my mind. It's just that as long as you are playing, you have to win as many games as you can. And that will be one form of motivation."

The pay hike makes Kuroda the fourth NPB player to earn ¥600 million after reliever Kazuhiro Sasaki (650 million), outfielder Hideki Matsui (610 million) and Yomiuri Giants catcher-turned first baseman Shinnosuke Abe (600 million).

Kuroda surpasses Orix Buffaloes ace Chihiro Kaneko as NPB's current top earner. Kaneko received ¥500 million in the second year of a multiyear deal. He moved to the top spot when Abe accepted a ¥184 million cut in November.