Innings-eater Garland rejoins Dodgers
Veteran right-hander pitched for LA down stretch in 2009
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers further boosted an already formidable starting rotation for 2011 by signing free-agent right-hander Jon Garland to a one-year contract with a vesting option for 2012 on Friday.
Garland will be guaranteed $5 million for 2011 with an additional $3 million in incentives and an $8 million option in 2012 that will become guaranteed if he reaches 190 innings pitched in 2011. He has reached that number in all nine seasons since he became a full-time starter.
"I'm excited about the opportunity to come back to the Dodgers," said Garland, a Trade Deadline pickup in 2009. "The park fits my style of pitching. It's looking like a darn good staff. I'm coming back to a clubhouse where I know a lot of guys, the same guys who won the division two years in a row."
Garland rejoins the Dodgers after a year in San Diego and essentially becomes the fifth starter after youngsters Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley and the more-seasoned Ted Lilly and Hiroki Kuroda, each of whom re-signed earlier this offseason.
Each of the five won at least 10 games in 2010, with Garland going 14-12 with a 3.46 ERA. Each of them posted an ERA under 3.65, pitched more than 190 innings and made 30 or more starts.
Despite that, the Dodgers had multiple problems with their starting pitching in 2010, not the least of which was an injury-plagued season by Opening Day starter Vicente Padilla, who was signed last winter instead of Garland. Padilla went 6-5 but pitched only 95 innings.
The fifth-starter slot was an even bigger problem. Before acquiring Lilly, the Dodgers used five starters other than Padilla, Kershaw, Billingsley and Kuroda. John Ely, Carlos Monasterios, Ramon Ortiz, James McDonald and Charlie Haeger went a combined 6-21. Ortiz was released, McDonald traded and Haeger has signed with Seattle as a Minor League free agent.
When the season ended, general manager Ned Colletti listed starting pitching ahead of a hitter as the team's top priority, even though the club still has an apparent gaping hole in the middle of the lineup with no power-hitting left fielder. Colletti said he'll go into next season with the best rotation on paper since he took over in 2006.
"I felt we needed to shore up our starting pitching the best we could; it's what we set out to do since early October," Colletti said.
"We're happy to have Jon back with us. His reliability, his ability to go to the post and pitch a lot of innings, is certainly attractive to us. We set out to improve the rotation and adding Jon caps it off in a good way. We now have five guys capable of 190-plus innings, capable of 30-plus starts and 12-plus wins.
By signing Garland, Lilly and Kuroda, Colletti has rebuilt the rotation before the tumult of the Winter Meetings starts on Dec. 6.
"When people have an affinity to play for the Dodgers, we try to strike a deal as quickly as we can," he said. "It depends on our willingness, the willingness of the player and sometimes on the willingness of the agent."
Colletti now can focus on the next set of priorities -- acquiring a big bat, another reliever and resolving the uncertainty at catcher with Russell Martin both healing from a broken hip and being a non-tender possibility. Monasterios can be shifted to the bullpen full-time, while Ely can compete for Jeff Weaver's swingman role.
"We need another bat, a relief pitcher and to figure out the catching situation," said Colletti, who indicated there is still money available for acquisitions. "Those are the priorities now."
The 31-year-old Garland has gone 131-114 with a 4.32 ERA during his 11-year career. He has averaged more than 32 starts and 200 innings per season in each of his nine full big league campaigns and has been on the disabled list just once in his career.
The Southern California native is one of five pitchers to post 10 or more wins in each of the last nine seasons, the others being CC Sabathia, Derek Lowe, Mark Buehrle and Javier Vazquez.
This will be Garland's second stint with the Dodgers, having been acquired on Aug. 31, 2009, from Arizona for infielder Tony Abreu. Garland went 3-2 in six starts for Los Angeles following the trade.
Last winter, he waited until the eve of Spring Training to sign with the Padres. He seemed eager to move up the timetable this winter after hearing that some teams were hesitant to commit for multiple years because of concern that his decade of high innings totals had taken a toll.
"A lot of it is the calls coming in," Garland said. "I looked at my options and, in my eyes, this was best for me. I have a lot to offer the team. Coming back to a place I've been, where it was comfortable for me. It made a difference for me being around my family. I came in and pitched well after I was traded here. It's a positive outcome for me and the Dodgers."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.