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11/16/11 6:34 PM EST

Dodgers meet with Harang, but Kuroda a priority

Starting pitching needs sought; club will stress defense

MILWAUKEE -- Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti met Wednesday with the agent for pitcher Aaron Harang, one of the free agents the Dodgers are considering as a replacement in the rotation for Hiroki Kuroda.

Having already acknowledged that his 2012 payroll will be reduced from the $110 million of 2011 (perhaps down to $90 million), Colletti said that Kuroda remains a top priority, but the decision isn't the pitcher's alone.

"It's half and half. It's not only him, it's us," Colletti said, making a vague reference to his ability to fit Kuroda's $12 million salary into a reduced budget.

That budget already has forced Colletti to abandon ambitious plans at the end of the season of adding a slugger like Prince Fielder to the lineup.

2011 awards
MLB.com takes a glance at each position entering the Hot Stove season.

SP: Plenty of mid-tier arms
RP: Closers flood market
1B: Pujols, Prince elite
2B: Thin but reliable
3B: Aramis the lone big bat
SS: Attention on Reyes
OF: Bargains available
DH: Ortiz the top target
Hot Stove MLBlog
Hot Stove Tracker

"When we set out two months ago, I hoped we would be able to sign a bat for the middle of the order with [Matt] Kemp and Andre [Ethier]," he said. "But we're not in the position to do that."

Instead, he made over the roster around the edges, re-signing Juan Rivera to play left field, adding Mark Ellis to start at second base and Matt Treanor to back up at catcher, where A.J. Ellis is the starter.

Add it up and the Dodgers are stressing defense because it's less expensive. Colletti said he still needs to resolve the starting pitching and wants to add a utilityman with the ability to back up at shortstop, where Dee Gordon is the starter with less than half a season of big league experience. Jerry Hairston Jr. is one player on his radar.

Asked if he would be OK with starting the season with today's roster, Colletti said:

"Luckily, we don't have to start the season today. We still have some work to do. We need three guys to have their typical years -- Andre, James [Loney] and [Juan] Uribe. I think none of the three would say the numbers they attained [were] the numbers they thought they would attain."

Running counter to the reduced budget is the agreement to lock up Kemp for eight years and $160 million. Expected to become official in the next few days, that move apparently was made for the health of the organization's future, because he was returning for 2012 regardless. The contract is back-loaded so the club actually will pay Kemp less in 2012 than he likely would have made through the arbitration process.

Harang, meanwhile, has been on Colletti's radar since 2009, when he nearly traded for the right-hander at the July 31 Trade Deadline and again during the Winter Meetings.

Harang, 33, went 14-7 with a 3.64 ERA for San Diego last year and threw 170 2/3 innings on a one-year contract for $3.5 million. By comparison, Kuroda will be 37 next spring and went 13-16 with a 3.07 ERA in 202 innings for the Dodgers.

The Dodgers also have been considering free-agent pitchers Chris Capuano and Jeff Francis.

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