Are the Dodgers Saving Their Money for Historic Clayton Kershaw Deal?

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Are the Dodgers Saving Their Money for Historic Clayton Kershaw Deal?
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The Los Angeles Dodgers might be big spenders, but they haven't made any major signings so far this offseason.

The four-year, $28 million pact with Cuban infielder Alexander Guerrero still stands as the Dodgers' biggest signing this winter, while the team has also inked right-hander Dan Haren to a one-year, $10 million deal.

So that's $38 million spent on free agents, just a drop in the bucket for the new ownership group led by Magic Johnson and Stan Kasten, who bought the team for a record $2 billion in 2012.

With the team also listening to offers to unload the big contracts of one of their veteran outfielders like Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp, via Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times, are the Dodgers saving up to re-sign Clayton Kershaw?

The southpaw already has two Cy Young Awards to his name at the age of 25 and looks like he's only getting better. He's led the National League in ERA and WHIP each of the past three seasons, including his dominant 2013 campaign when he finished 16-9 with a 1.83 ERA, a 0.92 WHIP and an NL-best 232 strikeouts.

This marks the final offseason that Kershaw is eligible for arbitration, as he is set to hit free agency following the 2014 campaign. That is, of course, if the Dodgers cannot ink him to an extension first.

According to Buster Olney of ESPN.com, the Dodgers approached Kershaw about a long-term deal in the neighborhood of $300 million that would be the biggest in MLB history, barring an unprecedented contract for free-agent Robinson Cano this offseason.

Olney also reported that Kershaw wasn't keen on negotiating a deal during the season, but that there was enough discussion to believe that an extension could be agreed upon this winter.

In early November, though, Kershaw sounded like a man who wanted to test his value on the open market when Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times asked him about the prospect of free agency.

"I think any player, that's the reward of baseball, to make it to that point," Kershaw told Hernandez. "I think any player gets curious when you get close, for sure."

Ed Zurga/Getty Images

It would be wise for Kershaw to start a bidding war for his services, but it would also be hard for anyone to turn down $300 million.

As Matthew Pouliot of NBC's Hardball Talk noted, the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees would be two teams that have spending room next winter and would be willing to top $30 million annually to sign Kershaw.

So what exactly is he worth?

Spotrac.com did a contract comparison of four of Kershaw's contemporaries that have recently signed big deals: Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander, Cole Hamels and CC Sabathia. According to Spotrac, the average deal between that quartet was eight years, $195 million.

But with baseball revenues at record levels and Kershaw having such unprecedented success at a young age, this seems like a perfect storm for the $300 million contract barrier to be broken.

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The Dodgers have already made sizeable commitments to their rotation, signing Zack Greinke to a six-year, $147 million deal last year and then making a $61 million commitment to Hyun-Jin Ryu shortly after. Not to mention the team was listed as a front-runner to sign Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka, according to Hernandez, who would command upwards of $125 million if MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball can agree to a posting-fee system this offseason.

When you take those things into consideration, it doesn't look like the Dodgers have any reservations about continuing to shell out the big bucks going forward. While Los Angeles hasn't made any groundbreaking moves so far this winter, there is still plenty of time to make it happen.

Money doesn't seem to be an object to this ownership group, who can seemingly consider throwing $400 million to Tanaka and Kershaw without blinking an eye. Market values for pitching are going up and Kershaw is peaking at the right time.

The Dodgers would hate to see Kershaw leave via free agency, and they have the financial wherewithal to keep him around. But will they be able to sign him before he has a chance to talk with other teams as a free agent?

Stay tuned.

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