Dodgers bolster pitching by signing Zack Greinke, Ryu: MLB moves
Pirates re-sign Jason Grilli, Reds bring back Ryan Ludwick
The Los Angeles Dodgers introduced left-hander Ryu Hyun-jin of South Korea on Monday, making him the first player ever to go directly from the Korean league to the major leagues.
And he was just the setup man.
The Dodgers finalized a $147 million, six-year deal with free agent right-hander Zack Greinke later in the day.
"We were definitely hoping for Zack," said Magic Johnson, a partner in Guggenheim Baseball Management which bought the team last spring. "Zack is a proven winner. When you put him together with Clayton, man, we feel really good."
The deals for Greinke and Ryu give the Dodgers eight starting pitchers under contract for next season, joining 2011 NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Josh Beckett, Ted Lilly, Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang.
"Feeling more fortunate than gluttonous," general manager Ned Colletti said. "It's better to be sitting where we're sitting than where we've been. It's rare you need just five pitchers."
The Dodgers were eager to bolster their pitching this winter knowing that Billingsley (elbow) and Lilly (shoulder) are coming off surgeries.
Johnson called 2009 AL Cy Young winner Greinke "the big one."
Greinke split last season with Milwaukee and the Los Angeles Angels. He went a combined 15-5 with a 3.48 ERA in 34 starts, and finished the season going 5-0 with a 2.04 ERA in his last eight starts after Aug. 24.
The 29-year-old pitcher spent his only full season in the NL in 2011, tying a career high with 16 wins.
Greinke pitched from 2004-10 with Kansas City, going 16-8 with a major league-leading 2.16 ERA in 2009 when he won the Cy Young and made the All-Star team.
"When we took over the team, we said we were going to spend money and I guess you guys are seeing that we're trying to do that," Johnson said.
Ryu deal came down to the wire
Ryu signed a $36 million, six-year deal after talks went down to the final seconds of the negotiating window a day earlier.
"It's not just the spending but who you're spending it on," Johnson said. "It has to be the right guys."
The Dodgers paid $25.7 million for the right to negotiate with Ryu, whose agent is Scott Boras. If they hadn't reached a deal by Sunday's 2 p.m. PST deadline, Ryu would have returned to the Hanwha Eagles and the Dodgers would have been refunded the posting fee they paid for exclusive rights to negotiate with the 25-year-old pitcher.
"This deal came all the way down to the last 10 seconds," said Johnson, who tried out different versions of Ryu's name in trying to pronounce it correctly.
At 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds, Ryu cast an imposing figure as he slipped on his No. 99 jersey, the same number he wore with the Eagles. The last Dodgers player to wear the number was Manny Ramirez.
"I didn't realize he's this big and strong," Johnson said. "Stamina-wise, he'll be able to hold up."
Ryu was 9-9 with a 2.66 ERA in 27 games last season for the Eagles. He limited opponents to a .232 batting average and led the Korea Baseball Organization with a career-high 210 strikeouts. He has international experience, having pitched in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2009 World Baseball Classic, including two scoreless relief appearances at Dodger Stadium.
"It's my honour to play for the Dodgers," Ryu said through a translator.
Ryu said he would learn English "little by little" and rely on his catcher's signals to communicate during games.
Ryu's contract includes a clause that doesn't allow him to be demoted to the minor leagues.
Ludwick explores free agency, re-signs with Reds
Ryan Ludwick left the Reds to see if there was a better deal available on the free agent market. He found at least one, but turned it down to stay with Cincinnati.
The left fielder signed a two-year, $15 million deal on Monday that includes a mutual option for the 2015 season. He agreed to the contract over the weekend.
The 34-year-old outfielder batted .275 with 26 homers and 80 RBIs in 125 games last season, when he started 107 times in left field. After first baseman Joey Votto got hurt at midseason, Ludwick emerged as one of the team's most consistent run producers, helping the Reds win the NL Central for the second time in three years.
"I think ultimately I've always wanted to prove that one All-Star year wasn't a fluke and I can be an All-Star again," said Ludwick, an All-Star with St. Louis in 2008. "The ultimate goal would be to win a World Series. That's one of the reasons I came back here. I think we have guys in place one through nine [in the batting order]. We brought back pretty much the whole team."
Ludwick hit three homers during the Reds' first-round loss to the San Francisco Giants in the playoffs.
He came to Cincinnati on a one-year, $2 million deal for 2012 that included a mutual option for 2013 at $5 million. Instead, he took a $500,000 buyout, interested in seeing what other teams would offer. General manager Walt Jocketty made an offer, then waited to see what Ludwick decided.
"He had several clubs chasing after him, two or three in particular that would have been attractive places," Jocketty said. "At least one had more money on the table. I think it's a credit to Ryan that we tried to make a deal that was fair, that we felt comfortable with."
Pittsburgh re-signs reliever Jason Grilli
The Pittsburgh Pirates have re-signed free agent reliever Jason Grilli to a two-year contract worth $6.75 million.
The 36-year-old Grilli has enjoyed a career renaissance in Pittsburgh since originally signing with the Pirates in July 2011. He went 1-6 with a 2.91 ERA in 64 games in 2012 and struck out 13.8 batters per nine innings, fourth-best in the National League.
The signing also gives the Pirates some flexibility in the bullpen next year in case it ever decides to part ways with closer Joel Hanrahan.
Grilli has spent the majority of his career as a middle reliever but has struggled staying healthy until arriving in Pittsburgh. He has been a mainstay in the seventh and eighth innings with the Pirates because of his ability to get strikeouts in key situations.
White Sox sign versatile infielder
Jeff Keppinger isn't sure where he'll play with the White Sox. He is certain Chicago is the place for him, though.
The White Sox announced a three-year, $12 million contract with Keppinger on Monday after reaching an agreement last week, adding a versatile infielder who could fill a hole at third base.
"I really like that city," he said on a conference call. "I thought it would be a good fit for me."
Keppinger is set to earn $3.5 million next season, $4 million in 2014 and $4.5 million in 2015 after hitting a career-high .325 in 115 games with Tampa Bay last season. He made 41 starts at third base, 23 at second, 21 at first and 19 as the designated hitter. The White Sox have an opening at third and there's a good chance he'll wind up there even though he never discussed that with them. Kevin Youkilis finished last season at the position for Chicago and is now a free agent.
"I haven't talked to anybody about where I'm going to play," Keppinger said. "To me, it really doesn't matter. I've played a lot of different positions throughout my career, and I feel comfortable at all of them. Wherever they want me to play, I'm good with it."
Just as important, his right leg is improving. Keppinger broke his fibula when he tripped down some stairs at home early in the off-season, terrible timing for a player on the market. He said he'll be out of his walking boot on Tuesday and expects to be healed by the start of spring training.
"I thought I just rolled my ankle and sprained it," he said. "I'm wearing flip-flops coming down the stairs and slipped. I tried to catch myself and I just didn't land right."
Keppinger is a career .288 hitter over eight seasons with the New York Mets, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Houston, San Francisco and Tampa Bay.
"His versatility gives (manager Robin Ventura) some options to move him around the infield, which was part of the appeal for us," general manager Rick Hahn said. "Obviously, if we were to start the season today — which we obviously don't — I would expect him to be the Opening Day third baseman, but there's still a fair amount of the off-season to go."
He said the White Sox are still in contact with other teams and free agents. Catcher A.J. Pierzynski remains unsigned, too, but Hahn had no update on that situation.