Dodgers round out rotation, add Harang
LA signs veteran right-hander to two-year, $12 million deal
DALLAS -- While the neighboring Angels were rocking the baseball world with stunning signings on Thursday at the Winter Meetings, the Dodgers quietly put the finishing touch on their starting rotation by confirming the signing of right-handed pitcher Aaron Harang.
Harang signed a back-loaded two-year, $12 million deal with a mutual vesting option for 2014 to join National League Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly and Chris Capuano in the rotation, giving the Dodgers five starters who pitched at least 170 innings in 2011. All but Kershaw are signed through at least '13.
The signing of Capuano last week essentially closed the door on the slim chance of a return by Hiroki Kuroda. The addition of Harang and structure of the deals means general manager Ned Colletti has taken Kuroda's $12 million salary from this year and bought two starters with it.
Harang will receive $3 million in 2012 and $7 million in 2013. In '14, there is an option with a $2 million buyout. The option for 2014 will vest between $7 million and $8 million if he eats up at least 360 innings over the two years and at least 175 innings in '13.
Harang, 33, went 14-7 with a 3.64 ERA in 170 2/3 innings for San Diego in 2011, earning $3.5 million. Kuroda, who turns 37 next spring, went 13-16 with a 3.07 ERA in 202 innings for the Dodgers.
There was additional motivation for the Dodgers to load up on veteran starters this winter -- protecting young talent Nathan Eovaldi, who flashed brilliance in six Major League starts while throwing a career-high 137 2/3 combined innings.
Colletti watched 22-year-old top prospect Rubby De La Rosa blow out his elbow 10 starts into his Major League career and require Tommy John surgery that will sideline him until mid-2012. Eovaldi turns 22 in February, and Colletti didn't want to start the season with the rookie carrying the workload of a fifth starter.
"He has a chance to make the club in Spring Training as maybe a reliever, or if somebody gets hurt, a starter," Colletti said of Eovaldi. "Or we can send him back [to the Minor Leagues] and let him continue to develop. He's a strong kid with a lot of upside. Now it's about managing that development, managing his experience, managing his innings.
"He has an opportunity to be successful over the long haul. But you take a young pitcher and ask him to throw 170 innings for the first time, you're taking a chance when he's never done that. This buys us developmental time."
Colletti said a two-year deal was necessary for Harang, who turned down similar offers because he wanted to play close to his San Diego home.
"We felt we needed to go into Spring Training with five experienced Major League starters," said Colletti. "We've got five that had at least 10 wins and 170 innings. We've got depth to the rotation. He pitches well in NL West parks. We play 100 games in L.A., San Diego and San Francisco, where the ballpark can affect to his advantage."
Harang was much more effective in spacious PETCO Park (3.05 ERA) than on the road (4.70). He finished up strong, with a 2.45 ERA in September. It's no surprise the Dodgers were impressed, as he held them to one earned run in 20 innings.
The 6-7, 265-pound Harang also spent a month on the disabled list this year with a stress fracture in his foot. Harang has been on Colletti's radar since 2009, when he nearly traded for the right-hander at the July 31 Deadline and again during the Winter Meetings.
The Dodgers have signed six Major League free agents -- Harang, Hairston, Capuano, second baseman Mark Ellis, infielder Adam Kennedy and backup catcher Matt Treanor -- and re-signed left fielder Juan Rivera.
Colletti continues to look for a veteran reliever as insurance for rookies Javy Guerra and Kenley Jansen. He hasn't ruled out a return for free agent Mike MacDougal.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.