LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers and pitcher Chad Billingsley reached an agreement on a one-year contract for $6.275 million on Tuesday, then the club exchanged arbitration numbers with first baseman James Loney and reliever Hong-Chih Kuo. Loney is asking for $5.25 million and the club is offering $4.7 million. Kuo is asking for $3.075 million and the club is offering $2.55 million. Kuo is coming off a 2010 salary of $975,000, while Loney earned $3.1 million. Billingsley went 12-11 with a 3.57 ERA last year, bouncing back from a second-half slump in 2009. The right-hander earned $3.85 million in 2010.
The exchange of numbers provides a framework for serious negotiations. With no agreement, a binding arbitration hearing would be held in February with a panel picking one number or the other, nothing in between. All three players have four-plus years of service time, meaning they also will be eligible for salary arbitration in 2012 before being eligible for free agency after the 2012 season. Kuo is coming off a record-breaking All-Star season. He set a franchise record and led all Major Leaguers with a 1.20 ERA, and he inherited the closer's job when Jonathan Broxton wobbled. But Kuo doesn't have typical closer stats and his brittle elbow prevents him from being projected as a consistent ninth-inning staple. Loney is in line for a sizeable raise, even though his power numbers are on the low end for his position. In 2010, his average and on-base percentage slid during a dramatic second-half slump, during which he hit .211. Since the inception of salary arbitration 35 years ago, the Dodgers are 14-6 in cases decided by a hearing and 6-1 in their last seven cases dating to 1991. That includes the most recent wins over Joe Beimel in 2007 and Eric Gagne in 2004 by assistant general manager Kim Ng, who is in charge of the club's cases. The last player to win a hearing with the Dodgers was Terry Adams in 2001. The club's first arbitration case was in 1975, when Ron Cey was awarded a salary of $56,000 instead of the club's submission of $47,000.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.