Hiroki Kuroda has officially returned to the Dodgers for 2011, receiving an $8 million base salary plus a $4 million signing bonus that will be paid out over the following two years. Not only did the Dodgers not make a multiyear commitment, but Kuroda isn't even really getting a raise despite having his best year with the Dodgers in 2010. Kuroda made $13 million in 2010, the final year of a three-year contract that averaged $11.8 million. Take this with a grain of salt for a guy earning eight figures, but this one wasn't all about money. He could have gotten a bigger deal elsewhere.
"When we ended the season, we had really two guys (who were) bonafide major-league starters signed in Chad (Billingsley and Clayton (Kershaw)," Dodger general manager Ned Colletti said in a conference call. "We needed to upgrade the rotation, certainly needed to add to it. We did it with the signing of Ted (Lilly), and getting Hiroki back was another great move for us.
"We were interested in doing something maybe with an option for another year, but our appetite was one year as well. It fit with what he was looking to do and it fit with what we were looking to do."
Colletti said it was uncertain whether the Dodgers would sign a fifth veteran starting pitcher – amid other concerns about the position players – but that the team would certainly explore it.
"Too soon to tell," he said. "We've still got a lot of oars in the water, a lot of different things going on. ... (Signing Kuroda) doesn't close the door on anybody, but I can't be specific on any free agents."
Colletti said that the deal came together rather easily. He talked to Kuroda's U.S. agent, Steve Hilliard, with a week to go in the regular season, and then to Kuroda on the final day of the season, telling him "just let us know when you know what you want to do."
About two weeks later, Hilliard said Kuroda wanted to come back for one more season, and the deal came together relatively easily.
"I think when you know what you want to do, and you have the opportunity to do it, some people want to procrastinate and drag it out, other people are comfortable with what they want to do," Colletti said.
"I think he had a good experience here in L.A. I think he liked being a Dodger. I think his family liked the idea of coming back. ... As it was potentially a good fit three years ago, I think he looked back on it and felt it still would be."
On other topics, Colletti said that he has had three or four informal conversations with Joe Torre, but is waiting for Torre to spell out "what he wants to do and when he wants to do it" with regards to whether he will return to the Dodgers in some capacity.
Colletti wrapped up by saying he expects to formally announce the 2011 Dodger coaching staff in the next couple of days. "We've got a pretty good feel for it, there's just some other details we've gotta tie up," he said.