Clayton Kershaw deserves Joey Votto money right now, no questions asked.
Votto, Votto-matic, whatever you want to call him, has been an vital piece in the Cincinnati Reds lineup since his major league debut in 2007. Since arriving, he has racked up two All-Star selections, an NL MVP award and a Gold Glove.
In return, the Reds rewarded him with a rich contract that keeps him with the Reds until he is 40 years old. From ages 34-39, the man will earn $25 million per season.
Clayton Kershaw's two-year contract extension was a nice gesture. Then again, so is a promise ring you may give to a girlfriend.
The fact of the matter is, a promise ring is no real commitment—it just serves as something to bide some time.
It's time for the Dodgers to formally propose to Kershaw. Here's why.
Kershaw is locked up through the 2013 season.
If the Dodgers do nothing and allow him to hit free agency, there would be a bidding war like none we've ever seen before for a pitcher.
The Philadelphia Phillies have not hammered out a deal with Cole Hamels yet. The Boston Red Sox will likely have shed the contracts of Josh Beckett and Jon Lester and the New York Yankees are always in on big-name agents.
This two year-extension takes Kershaw to 25 years old—in other words, prime age for a pitcher. It would be absolutely reasonable to tack on another five years at $100-120 million.
Absolutely no disrespect meant toward Matt Cain.
I think he's a phenomenal talent and deserves the money he received.
Having said that, Kershaw is a superior pitcher.
In Cain's first four seasons with the Giants, Cain had racked up 30 wins and finished fifth in the 2006 NL Rookie of the Year race. He posted a 3.47 ERA and a 1.208 WHIP.
As for Kershaw, 47 wins, 3.06 ERA, 1.220 WHIP with an All-Star appearance, Cy Young award, Gold Glove and 12th-place finish for the 2011 NL MVP.
Cain just re-upped for eight years at $139.75 million, which carries an annual average salary of slightly under $17.5 million per season.
Kershaw's "money" season in this two-year extension pays out at $11 million.
Since 2000, there have been 15 20-game winners in the National League.
Kershaw joins the likes of guys named Roy Halladay, Tom Glavine, Curt Schilling, Chris Carpenter, Randy Johnson and John Smoltz, to name a few.
Elite performers maintain elite company.
Since 1877, there have been 37 triple-crown winners in all of Major League Baseball.
Twenty-one of them have come from the National League.
Some of the names you'll find on this list: Sandy Koufax, Lefty Grove, Walter Johnson, Cy Young, Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson.
All of these men were the most dominant left-handed pitcher of their respective generations.
Kershaw, while still very young, is proving that he deserves to be in the same conversation with many of the greats, including Sandy Koufax.
While it may seem trivial, the idea of having a dominant lefty is extremely appealing.
So much so that teams can and will overpay for it, which is precisely why the Dodgers should be proactive rather than reactive.
John Lackey is making more than $15 million per season with the Boston Red Sox.
In 2010 and 2011, he won 26 games and posted a 5.26 ERA and 1.504 WHIP.
Kershaw, in the same time frame, has won 34 games with a 2.60 ERA and 1.078 WHIP, with an average annual salary of $470,000.
Need I say more?
Let's face it—the Angels tossed around their wallet this winter.
Even so, they still don't have an arm like Kershaw on their staff.
That's not to take anything away from the team in general—they have a supreme starting rotation.
However, Kershaw, as I've noted, is a commodity, being a left-handed ace.
Keeping Kershaw in Dodger blue is literally as necessary as keeping Matt Kemp.
This Dodgers team has a solid young core to build around.
Lord knows that the new ownership, faced by Magic Johnson, need players like Kershaw and Kemp to build this franchise around.
If the team allows Kershaw to go to free agency, it would be a disastrous PR move.
Beloved Dodgers Hall of Fame lefty, Sandy Koufax, didn't even hit his full stride until the age of 27.
At that point, he won 97 games in just four seasons. His ERA was incredible at just 1.85.
Kershaw is still just 25 years old.
While I am not suggesting that he will be as lights-out as Koufax was, he has given every indication that he will be one hell of a pitcher heading in to his prime.
I've long believed that good value on a starting pitcher would be based on wins per million earned that season.
For example, Sandy Koufax won 165 games in his career. By today's standard, it would equated to roughly a 16 wins-per-season average. For that, a contact of $16-18 million would seem rational.
Kershaw, over the last three seasons, has averaged 14 wins per season.
However, he is showing that he is entering his prime. Thus, I give him a bit of a pass and would boost the expected pay to be $18-20 million per season.
Watching him pitch, I have a hard time seeing him not get that many wins per season.
Pay the man.
Pay him now.
Keep him in Dodgers blue. He is well worth the investment.