Left-hander was out of options

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Eric Stults, the Dodgers left-hander who has pitched brilliantly at times over the years but has never been able to gain a foothold in the major leagues, was sold on Tuesday to the Hiroshima Carp of the Japanese Central League. Joe Bick, Stults' Cincinnati-based agent, confirmed that the deal was complete and that Stults had agreed to terms with his new team on a one-year contract with a club option for 2011.

The move ends an eight-year relationship between the Dodgers and Stults, their 15th-round draft pick out of Bethel College in Indiana in 2002. Stults, 30, was 8-10 with a 4.84 ERA over parts of four seasons with the Dodgers, including a complete-game shutout in each of the past two seasons, but he never logged a full season in the majors.

Stults was out of minor league options and appeared to be a long shot to make the team out of spring training, and the Dodgers were known to have been shopping him to other teams for much of the spring. But Bick said that in the end, when it became clear that no other major-league club could promise what the Carp were promising -- a regular spot in their starting rotation -- the decision was made to go to Japan.

Bick wouldn't disclose financial terms of the deal except to say that they far exceeded the $410,000 that the major league portion of Stults' current contract with the Dodgers would have paid him, which would have been prorated if he didn't spend the entire season in the majors. Bick also said the new deal contains several incentives and that if the Carp exercises Stults' option for next season and he maxes out those incentives, he stands to make ''four or five or six times'' as much over the next two years as he likely would have by remaining in the U.S.

Because his big league service time has been so sporadic, Stults wouldn't even have been eligible for arbitration until after 2011, and even then only if he spent all of 2010 and 2011 in the big leagues -- a highly unlikely proposition.

''Really, over the course of the last two seasons, we had heard of nominal interest from a number of Japanese teams in having Eric play over there,'' Bick said. ''The Hiroshima club ... has a terrific reputation of treating its foreign players extremely well, and they made us a nice offer. Over the last two or three days, after examining all the options and possibilities ... Eric and his wife talked it over last night and determined that they wanted to do this.''

Stults still has to clear waivers before the transaction between the Dodgers and Carp is official, but that is merely a technicality. Bick said Stults already has taken the step of officially refusing any assignment to any big league organization in advance of any potential waiver claim, clearing the way for him to go to Japan.

The move also clears a spot on the Dodgers' 40-man roster, which now has 37 players. Non-roster outfielder Garret Anderson is considered a lock to make the club, which would eliminate one of the three open spots. Among the rest of the non-roster players in camp, pitchers Ramon Ortiz, Russ Ortiz and Jeff Weaver and infielder Nick Green all are strong candidates for the Opening Day roster.

The Hiroshima Carp are the former team of Hiroki Kuroda, the right-hander who spent 11 seasons pitching for them before signing a three-year, $35.3 million contract with the Dodgers before the 2008 season. Kuroda is now entering the final year of that contract.

Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com