The Los Angeles Dodgers and star pitcher Clayton Kershaw have agreed to a seven year, $215 million contract. The deal is now the largest ever given to a starting pitcher. The previous record was held by Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander, who was given a seven year, $180 million contract in 2012. Kershaw’s contract trumps that deal, and rightfully so.
The contract also includes an opt-out clause in 2019 when Kershaw will be 30 years old. If he chooses to become a free agent by then, Kershaw could be in line for a second monster deal, something most superstars in any sport don’t ever get a chance to receive during their careers.
Kershaw, 25, wasn’t set to become a free agent until 2015, but he certainly set himself up for this type of contract. He already has a packed resume, winning two Cy Young Awards, appearing in three All-Star games, and leading the National League in strikeouts and ERA in three different seasons.
Last season was the best season since 2011 for Kershaw, winning 16 games while posting a league-low 1.83 ERA with 232 strikeouts. As a result, the Dodgers wanted to make sure they locked up their ace so there was no possibility of Kershaw becoming arbitration-eligible.
The Dodgers now have Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-Jin Ryu all at the top of the rotation through 2018. It’s one of the best rotations in baseball, as they combined for 45 regular season wins last season.
The extension of Kershaw also means the end of the Masahiro Tanaka rumors, at least one would think. Tanaka, a superstar pitcher from Japan, is expected to sign with a MLB team before his January 24th posting deadline. The Dodgers were rumored to be one of the teams in play for Tanaka, but that seems unlikely now that their payroll is expected to be at an excess of $200 million, an amount that will be one of the highest in all of baseball.
Kershaw is considered by many as the best pitcher in the league and gives the Dodgers a chance to win any time he takes the mound every fifth day. He is a vital part of the Dodger’s World Series contender status and will look to continue to anchor the rotation to a second consecutive postseason appearance in 2014.
For as great as Kershaw is, long-term mega deals haven’t worked out particularly well for starting pitchers due to injuries or lack of consistency in the past. For example, two deals worth $100+ million given to notable starters Johan Santana and Barry Zito are considered to be disasters. Santana has failed to stay healthy since 2008 after winning two Cy Youngs, and Zito has been a disappointment since his arrival in San Francisco after seven dominant seasons in Oakland.
Will those routes after a mega-deal be a similar one for Kershaw? Only time will tell. For now, there is no denying the dominance of Clayton Kershaw. He is the best pitcher going at the moment, and if he can continue to stay healthy, who knows, maybe he hasn’t even reached his full potential yet.
One thing’s for sure, the Dodgers have locked up their superstar pitcher for the near future, a move they needed to get done to maintain the best of the few dominant starters in baseball today.