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12/16/10 4:17 PM EST

Dodgers sign Guerrier to three-year deal

LOS ANGELES -- The signing of free-agent reliever Matt Guerrier, made official on Thursday when he passed a physical exam, is another indication of how Dodgers management feels things went wrong in 2010.

It's the pitching.

General manager Ned Colletti is loading up on it this winter. Guerrier -- who leveraged interest from Boston and Colorado to land a three-year, $12 million deal from the Dodgers -- is better-suited for the seventh and eighth innings than the ninth.

But his arrival is an indication that Colletti isn't completely confident of Jonathan Broxton's psyche, Hong-Chih Kuo's health, Kenley Jansen's inexperience or Ronald Belisario's character. The Dodgers had the best bullpen ERA in the league in 2009, but plunged to 11th this past season -- undermined by George Sherrill's season-long slump, Belisario's troubled year, Broxton's second-half meltdown and regressions by Jeff Weaver and Ramon Troncoso.

Guerrier provides depth and flexibility for new manager Don Mattingly, because he's a proven workhorse. He led the American League in appearances in 2008 and '09 for Minnesota and was third in 2010 with 74, going 5-7 with a 3.17 ERA. Still, the three-year deal is the longest the Dodgers have given to a reliever since Jeff Shaw's three-year, $15 million deal in 1998, after which he retired.

And the Dodgers' history with multiyear contracts is less than stellar. In the past 13 years, they've spent nearly $1 billion on multiyear contracts without reaching the World Series. They gave two-year deals last winter to Broxton, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, and each player regressed from the previous season. A fourth went to free agent Jamey Carroll, who exceeded expectations.

Nonetheless, Colletti said as soon as the 2010 season ended, the Dodgers' 2011 payroll would be up from the roughly $90 million of '10 and it will probably clear $105 million, including money still owed to Manny Ramirez, Andruw Jones and Juan Pierre.

Colletti has created flexibility by backloading the multiyear contracts he's given. Even though the average annual value of Guerrier's contract is $4 million, he will receive only $1.5 million in 2011. Ted Lilly, signed to a three-year deal worth $33 million, receives only $8 million in 2011. Juan Uribe, signed to a three-year deal worth $21 million, receives $5 million in 2011.

Colletti needed such flexibility because he had so many holes to fill, especially with the starting rotation, which he accomplished by bringing back Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda, Vicente Padilla and Jon Garland -- the latter three on one-year deals.

In Garland, Lilly, Kuroda, Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers' 2011 starting rotation would have five pitchers each with 10 or more wins from last season, a cumulative 2010 ERA of 3.39 and a league-leading .234 opponents' batting average. Each posted an ERA under 3.65, pitched more than 190 innings and made 30 or more starts last season. Colletti, meanwhile, has also added Uribe's offense at second base while replacing Russell Martin behind the plate, with Rod Barajas and Dioner Navarro joining A.J. Ellis.

A hole remains in left field, and the Dodgers haven't completely ruled out free agent Bill Hall, although the Guerrier signing leaves less money. Colletti has said he might take the current roster into Spring Training and let Jay Gibbons, Tony Gwynn, Xavier Paul, Jamie Hoffmann, Trent Oeltjen and Trayvon Robinson compete for platoon jobs.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.