Aaron Harang gave up three hits in eight innings, retiring 21 of the last… (Lenny Ignelzi / Associated…)
Reporting from Dallas — For a team on a tight budget, the Dodgers were surprisingly active at the first day of baseball's winter meetings, signing utility man Jerry Hairston Jr. and working toward a deal with starting pitcher Aaron Harang.
The Dodgers were able to fit Hairston into their payroll by persuading him to do what Mark Ellis and Chris Capuano did this off-season: take less money for the upcoming year in exchange for an inflated payday the following season.
Of the $6 million Hairston is guaranteed over the next two years, he will receive $2.25 million in 2012 and $3.75 million in 2013.
Hairston, who turns 36 in May, is a career .258 hitter who has played for eight teams over 14 major league seasons. He batted .270 with five home runs and 31 runs batted in for the Washington Nationals and Milwaukee Brewers last season. He played five positions: second and third base, shortstop, and left and right field.
He and recently signed Adam Kennedy figure to be the Dodgers' two backup infielders.
Hairston's previous highest single-season base salary was $2.3 million, which he drew from the Chicago Cubs in 2006, but he benefited from an active market for free-agent middle infielders.
The Dodgers have committed almost $15 million to Hairston and Ellis over the next two seasons.
The Dodgers were part of a similar run on middle relievers last winter when they signed Matt Guerrier to a three-year, $12-million contract.
Like Hairston, Harang appears on the verge of a multiple-year deal, according to two people familiar with the situation who were not allowed to speak publicly during the negotiations.
General Manager Ned Colletti did not acknowledge an agreement with Harang, but he said that anyone the team signs in the coming days would probably receive a deal structured similarly to Ellis and Capuano.
Harang, 33, won 16 games in both 2006 and 2007 for the Cincinnati Reds. Some tough years followed, with his earned-run average spiking to 5.32 in an injury-plagued 2010 season with the Reds.
He bounced back with the San Diego Padres last season when he had a record of 14-7 with a 3.64 ERA. His ERA at the Padres' pitcher-friendly ballpark was 3.05; on the road, it was 4.70.
Harang could be the second pitcher in as many years to revive his career with the Padres and move on to the Dodgers. Last winter, the Dodgers signed Jon Garland, who made only nine starts before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery.
If Harang signs with the Dodgers, he would probably be the No. 4 starter in a rotation that includes Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly and Capuano. Hard-throwing 21-year-old Nathan Eovaldi would probably start the season in the minor leagues.