Dodgers Snap Up Their Own Free Agents

The Dodgers acted quickly this winter to re-sign two of their free agent pitchers, moves that were made possible because the players were eager to re-sign without squeezing every dollar from the market. First, it was Ted Lilly signing a three-year, $33 million contract before other teams could bid on him. Then Hiroki Kuroda signed a one-year contract for $12 million.

Kuroda was on the fence about staying in the United States or returning to Japan. The one-year contract appealed to him, and it was music to the Dodgers' ears.

Along with Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley, it gives the Dodgers a solid foursome in the rotation. After Lilly came over in a July 31 trade from the Cubs, those four combined for a 3.18 ERA in 45 starts. Br>
The team was only 21-24 in those games, however, an indication that more help is needed to get the Dodgers back to the playoffs.

When asked about free agent pitcher Vicente Padilla coming back for the final spot in the rotation, general manager Ned Colletti said the team has financial flexibility to add more players.

"This doesn't close the door on anybody," Colletti said. "I can't be specific on any free agent. The Kuroda signing doesn't preclude us from trying to get better."

Colletti knows the bullpen needs improvement, if not a complete overhaul, and a starting left fielder with power is the ideal fit for the inconsistent lineup.

Padilla signed a one-year contract last January. That's likely when he would sign again this offseason.

The last three years, the Dodgers went into the season with four known starters, then spent most of the season mixing and matching the fifth spot. While that's true of most teams, the Dodgers would prefer knowing their five, and they know they'll need backup options, too.

"Every club would like to know the fifth starter when they get to camp," Colletti said. "You always have to be prepared that somebody is hurt or not prepared. You'll need five. The more you build into it, the chances of leaving camp and starting the season with five starters that have big-league experience without a competition going on, the better chance you have. We'll see. Right now, we're at four, and we'll see where we go."

NOTES, QUOTES
--OF Anthony Jackson, a 26-year-old who's never played above Class AA, was the player to be named later in a trade that sent RHP Octavio Dotel to the Rockies in late September. Six weeks earlier, the Dodgers sent former top pitching prospect James McDonald and OF Andrew Lambo to the Pirates to get Dotel. Even if McDonald and Lambo have average careers for the Pirates, this could be one of general manager Ned Colletti's worst trades ever.

--C Russell Martin is the most-discussed Dodger among the decision-makers. Martin is coming off a major hip injury and two straight disappointing seasons, which makes him a non-tender candidate at the Dec. 2 deadline. The Dodgers' internal dialog is whether a Rod Barajas-A.J. Ellis catching tandem would be enough, or whether to make a run at a free agent catcher, such as Miguel Olivo or Yorvit Torrealba.

--INF Preston Mattingly, the son of new manager Don Mattingly, was traded to the Indians last month at the request of the Mattingly family. Preston, a 2006 first-round pick when Don was still in the Yankees organization, has a career minor league slash line of .232/.275/.334 in 1,544 at-bats. He's hoping for a fresh start near the Mattingly home.

--1B James Loney's name emerged as a possible trade candidate nationally in various reports. The Dodgers, while more willing to listen to trade proposals on Loney than in previous years, are not actively shopping him.

--Japanese amateurs Kazuya Takano and Kazuki Nishijima signed minor league contracts. According to sources in Japan, Takano is an 18-year-old right-hander whose high school class isn't scheduled to graduate until the spring. He has three effective pitches — a fastball, curve and split-finger pitch. Nishijima is a 21-year-old college left-hander.

--SS Tsuyoshi Nishioka, a 26-year-old switch-hitting batting champion for Japan's Chiba Lotte Marines, expressed an interest in signing with the Dodgers. As of now, the Dodgers aren't interested in trying to outbid the other 29 teams in the blind "posting fee" and then signing him to a contract.

--Third base coach Larry Bowa was Mattingly's first choice to be his bench coach. Mattingly revealed that Colletti vetoed that selection because he wanted to go in a different direction. There were problems last year between the coaching staff (mostly Bowa) and star CF Matt Kemp. The new coaching staff should be formally announced any day now.

---Brad Ausmus, Dave Roberts and Mark Loretta, who all played last recently with the Dodgers,as special assistants to the baseball operations staff.

BY THE NUMBERS: $340,000 -- Amount of money earned by former Dodgers pitcher Rick Rhoden on the senior golf tour from 2004-08. Now 57, Rhoden was given a trial run as a pitching coach at the Dodgers' instructional league this fall, and he could end up as a minor league pitching coach next year. The Dodgers haven't announced their minor league coaching assignments yet.

LA Dodgers Insider Top Stories