Moving to firm up their starting staff for new manager Don Mattingly, the Dodgers came to terms with right-hander Hiroki Kuroda on a one-year deal worth a reported $12 million on Monday.
The Dodgers are housed in the same National League West Division as the World Series champion Giants with their dominant young rotation. But that was not a major factor in their desire to keep four-fifths of their rotation intact for the 2011 season, according to general manager Ned Colletti.
Kuroda, who turns 36 on Feb. 10, was a free agent after fulfilling his three-year, $35.3 million deal that began in the 2008 season. He was 11-13 with a 3.39 ERA in 31 starts in 2010, the best of his three seasons in Los Angeles.
"In all due respect to the Giants," Colletti said in reference to his former employer while announcing the Kuroda signing, "we need to have the strongest team possible. We need to go into the season with as strong a pitching staff as possible, in the rotation and the bullpen. It's not a factor to me, regardless of who won anything.
"When the season ended, we had two guys we considered bonafide starters in Chad [Billingsley] and Clayton [Kershaw]. We needed to upgrade the rotation. We did it internally with the signing of Ted Lilly and now Hiroki. His desire to play in L.A. played into it and a one-year deal."
The Opening Day starter in 2009 -- just the third Japanese-born starter to earn that honor state-side -- Kuroda established career highs in the Majors in innings pitched (196 1/3) and strikeouts (159) during the 2010 season. He forged a 2.87 ERA after the All-Star break, holding opponents to a .204 batting average over that span.
Kuroda is likely to slide in as the fourth starter behind Kershaw, Billingsley and Lilly, who recently signed a three-year, $33 million deal to remain with the Dodgers. Colletti called retaining Lilly and Kuroda his two priority targets heading into the winter.
"We have financial flexibility," Colletti said in a conference call when asked about making another move to sign an established fifth starter. "There's a possibility. Until we have it, we don't have it. It's on the list.
"I think every club would like to know who their fifth starter is as you go into camp. Right now, we have four."
In 2008, Kuroda was 2-0 with a 1.46 ERA in two postseason starts against the Cubs and Phillies. He lost his lone postseason start in 2009 against Philadelphia.
A three-time All-Star during his 11-year tenure in Japan's Central League, Kuroda also won the Sawamura Award and a Gold Glove.
The Dodgers are expected to explore free agency and perhaps the trade market for a veteran or two to compete with youngsters John Ely and Carlos Monasterios for the No. 5 spot in the rotation.
Kuroda and the club agreed mutually to make it a one-year deal, Colletti said, adding that the Dodgers would have considered an option year but the pitcher preferred it this way.
"That's what we wanted to do," Colletti said, "and were comfortable doing. I think he had a good experience here in L.A., and he and his family wanted to come back. It was potentially a good fit three years ago, and he probably thought it was worth another season.
"As we continue our commitment to winning, Hiroki Kuroda will play a significant role in our rotation. He has had success in the regular season as well as the postseason, and we look forward to having him back in a Dodger uniform"
Kuroda is 28-30 with a 3.60 ERA in 82 career starts with one relief appearance. He owns a solid 1.177 WHIP and a 3.18 ratio of strikeouts to walks, above the norm.
Remaining healthy the entire season after his 2009 was interrupted by injuries was the big key to Kuroda's success in 2010.
"I expect him to be a good starter for us," Colletti said when asked about his expectations for Kuroda.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.