Clayton Kershaw will be in Dodger Blue at least for three more years. On Friday, the team announced that they had re-signed their homegrown, multi Cy Young winning pitcher to a one-year extension in addition to the two years remaining on his current contract.
Kershaw had the choice to opt out of the remaining two years in his existing contract, testing the free market, or opting in for an AAV salary of $32.5M and staying with the Dodgers. He and the Dodgers agreed on three years, $93M contract with no opt-outs. This basically adds one year to his current contract at the same value. It breaks down to $31M each for the next three years, in addition to $1M each for 24 starts, 26 starts, 28 starts, and 30 starts. Kershaw would also recieve $1.5M if he were to win the Cy Young in any of those three years, or $500K for either a second or a third place finish.
The front office had long been vocal about wanting Kershaw to stay a Dodger for life. With this offer, the Dodgers will have him through his age 33 season.
Fans and talking heads alike wondered about the temerity of bringing back Kershaw, as injuries and Father Time have diminished his fastball and more. Clayton acknowledged his past struggles, telling Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic:
“I am throwing slower. And I know that. And I don’t know if that’s going to be for the rest of my career, either. I firmly believe I can get that back and I’m going to spend a lot of time this off-season working on that.”
Whether or not he regains that speed remains to be seen. Not many pitchers have done so recently, besides Justin Verlander. Still, if one man can remake how he pitches to remain a top tier pitcher, it would be Kershaw.
Regardless, Kershaw has earned his payday with his body of work, all while wearing the Dodgers uniform. He was the team’s first pick in the 2006 draft, joining the big league team in 2008. The Dodgers have gone to the playoffs in almost every year he has been in the rotation, including winning six straight division titles from 2013-2018, three straight NLCS appearances, and back to back World Series appearances in 2017-18. Kershaw won the NL Cy Young in 2013, 2104, and 2106. He also was the NL MVP for the 2014 season.
Some may say that past work is not worth spending current money on, but that does not seem to matter to this front office. Kershaw has been the face of the franchise for pretty much his whole career, and even for an analytics driven front office, where walking away from an aging superstar might be worth it on paper, he is worth it to keep his as said face for years to come.
For his part, in addition to being the Dodgers’ flagship player, Clayton is a supreme creature of habit, and starting over somewhere else could have seemed daunting to him. This deal seems to work for both sides, with the Dodgers keeping their man and Kershaw not having to worry about what other teams may think of a potential decline.