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Money not an issue for Dodgers as they pursue pitching talent

They could have baseball's highest payroll by next season. But that's not keeping them out of talks with Hiroki Kuroda, who has interest from several teams.

November 09, 2012|By Dylan Hernandez

The Dodgers already have more than $200 million in salary commitments for next season, including money owed to players no longer on the team.

General Manager Ned Colletti said Thursday that he has a "rough idea" of what his team's payroll will be in 2013 but added, "That's open to debate, depending on who we think is available."

As early as next season, the Dodgers could replace the New York Yankees as the franchise with baseball's highest payroll. Colletti made no apologies.

"I think we'd all rather play with a full deck," he said.

The Dodgers' pursuit of free-agent pitcher Hiroki Kuroda illustrates how much the franchise's economic realities have changed in the last year.

The Dodgers never made Kuroda a formal offer when he was a free agent last winter, as they were still owned by Frank McCourt and in bankruptcy. Now, even with six starting pitchers under contract for next season, they are among the teams in active talks with Kuroda's agent.

The Dodgers are also believed to be interested in Zack Greinke and Anibal Sanchez.

Agent Scott Boras doesn't represent any of those pitchers but has taken note of the Dodgers' increased wherewithal. Last winter, he joked that the Dodgers were shopping in the "fruit-and-nuts category" of the free-agent market.

Now?

"I think they bought the store," Boras said, smiling.

Kuroda, who played his first four seasons in the major leagues with the Dodgers, spent last season with the Yankees. There, he had what was arguably his best season in the United States, as he was 16-11 with a 3.32 earned-run average.

Kuroda, who will be 38 next season, is drawing interest from several teams, including some that are talking to his representative about two-year deals, according to a person familiar with the situation who spoke under the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the negotiations.

He could also return to pitch in his native Japan.

Kuroda has received a qualifying offer from the Yankees, which is essentially for a one-year, $13.3-million contract. He has until Friday to decide whether to accept the offer.

If Kuroda rejects the offer and signs with a team other than the Yankees, the team that signs him would forfeit its first pick in the 2013 amateur draft.

Reached by phone, Kuroda said he hasn't made any decisions about his future.

There is widespread speculation that Kuroda is deciding between re-signing with the Yankees and returning to Japan, but he said that wasn't true.

"I never said anything like that," Kuroda said.

Of the possibility of signing with a major league team other than the Dodgers or Yankees, he said, "It isn't 0%."

Kuroda has an off-season home in Los Angeles, where his wife and two daughters remained during the season this year.

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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