The Dodgers signed left-hander Chris Capuano to a two-year deal Friday, giving him a place in the starting rotation and all but eliminating the possibility that they would bring back Hiroki Kuroda.
Capuano, 33, was 11-12 with a 4.55 earned-run average for the New York Mets last season. His contract is guaranteed for $10 million, of which he will be paid $3 million next year and $6 million in 2013. The deal includes an $8 million mutual option for 2014 that the Dodgers can buy out for $1 million.
The structure of the deal was important for the Dodgers, who remain mired in costly litigation and are in the process of being sold. They figure to spend $10 million less on their active roster in 2012 than the $95 million or so they did this year. The team’s parent company reported in a recent court filing that it had spent about that much in “bankruptcy-related expenses” through Oct. 31.
The plans to reduce payroll could cost the Dodgers the chance of retaining Kuroda, who posted a 3.07 ERA and was their second-best pitcher behind Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw last season. Kuroda was on a one-year, $12-million deal, which included $4 million in salary deferrals. Nonetheless, the $8 million he was paid this year was still more than the combined 2012 salaries of the Dodgers’ four most recent free-agent signings.
Asked Friday about what appeared to be end of his four-year run with the Dodgers, Kuroda said, “I haven’t heard anything about that from my agent, so I can’t comment about that.”
Kuroda has already received an offer from his former club in Japan and has instructed his agent to field offers from other major league teams. Last winter, he re-signed with the Dodgers before any other team could make him a formal proposal.
Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti wouldn’t officially close the door on Kuroda, but didn’t say anything to dispel the notion that he wouldn’t be back.
With Capuano joining Kershaw and Ted Lilly, the Dodgers’ rotation becomes heavily left-handed. Chad Billingsley and Nathan Eovaldi are expected to be the other starters.
Capuano has pitched seven major league seasons, including five with the Milwaukee Brewers. He won 18 games for them in 2005 and was a National League All-Star the next season.
Capuano missed the 2008 and 2009 seasons recovering from his second Tommy John elbow operation. He revived his career last season with the Mets by starting 31 games and pitching 186 innings.
Advanced statistical metrics indicated Capuano’s inflated ERA last season was a result of misfortune and a bad defense.
“We think our defense has a chance to be above average,” Colletti said. “We think he will benefit from that defense, as well as the ballpark.”