The Los Angeles Dodgers have reached an agreement with ace Clayton Kershaw on a $215 million contract extension that will keep him with the club for seven more years.
Ramona Shelburne of ESPN broke the news:
The Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw have agreed on a seven year, $215 million contract, sources have told ESPN. Out after five— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) January 15, 2014
On Friday, the Dodgers made the deal official:
The pitcher talked about the deal, according to Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register:
#Dodgers Clayton Kershaw on being highest paid pitcher ever: "Pretty humbling thing. ... Tremendous blessing. Tremendous responsibility"— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) January 17, 2014
Kershaw on 7 yr deal vs longer: "(Longer) i would have been overwhelmed trying to live up to contract"— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) January 17, 2014
ESPN's Buster Olney added context to how big of a contract this is:
Kershaw's deal a record for average annual value, and the fact that he can become a free agent at 30 again, through an out, is remarkable.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) January 15, 2014
Market escalation:'12 Cain got $127.5m entering last year before free agency. Hamels got $144m;now Kershaw gets $215m, per @ramonashelburne— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) January 15, 2014
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports breaks down the contract:
kershaw breakdown: 22M in '14 (18M sign bonus, 4M sal), 30M in '15, 32M in '16, 33M in '17 & '18, 32M in '19. 33M in '20— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) January 16, 2014
Mike Mazzeo of ESPN offers further perspective on the numbers:
If Kershaw were paid 365 days a year ($30.7 million), he'd earn $84,109.59/day, $3,504.57/hour and $58.41/minute— Mike Mazzeo (@MazzESPN) January 15, 2014
Kershaw has developed into one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball, and the Dodgers didn't want to run even the slightest risk of losing him. Since the team had no problem throwing money around to build the roster, paying one of its own was probably a simple choice.
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported late in the process that the extended negotiations included several different proposals. The Dodgers originally backed off during talks over a $210 million deal last season that included an opt-out clause:
Fox Sports reported in August that Kershaw was close to signing a record-setting, seven-year extension in the $210 million range earlier last season before the Dodgers backed off.
The contract under discussion then would have included an opt-out clause, giving Kershaw the right to become a free agent after five years, sources said.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports puts the deal into perspective:
Clayton Kershaw is the sixth athlete in American sports to get a $200M deal. The others: A-Rod (twice), Pujols, Cano, Prince and Votto.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) January 15, 2014
Shaikin provides A.J. Ellis' take on the contract:
AJ Ellis on Kershaw: "He's the highest-paid pitcher of all time, and it still feels like he's underpaid."— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) January 15, 2014
The 25-year-old starter's highest ERA over the past five seasons is 2.91. That number would have been good enough to rank seventh in the National League in 2013, ahead of Adam Wainwright and Stephen Strasburg. And that was Kershaw's worst season of the past five.
For his career, he sports a 2.60 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP. He has struck out 1,206 batters in 1,180 innings. As if that's not enough to prove he's one of the game's best, the lefty has also tossed seven shutouts and posted a career record more than 30 games over .500.
Those eye-popping overall stats were bolstered by a remarkable 2013 campaign, in which Kershaw finished with a microscopic NL-leading ERA of 1.83 while helping lead the Dodgers to the postseason.
ESPN Stats and Info shows just how special Kershaw's past few seasons have been:
Only 3 pitchers in NL history have won 3 straight ERA titles: Clayton Kershaw, Greg Maddux and Sandy Koufax.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 15, 2014
He ranks second in WHIP since 2008, as noted by MLB Play Index:
Since 2008, WHIP leaders (starters, 500+ IP): Cliff Lee 1.086 Clayton Kershaw 1.092 Roy Halladay 1.106 Jered Weaver 1.122 Cole Hamels 1.133— MLB Play Index (@BRefPlayIndex) January 6, 2014
So, no matter what angle you analyze the situation, Los Angeles had little choice but to pay Kershaw top dollar to remain atop its starting rotation. If it didn't, there would have been no shortage of pitching-needy teams waiting to make him an offer.
Dodgers teammate (and upcoming free agent) Hanley Ramirez tweeted support for Kershaw (along with a warning about the Dodgers' coffers:
Of course, injuries are always a serious concern when it comes to giving pitchers huge long-term deals. But Kershaw has remained durable since becoming a vital piece of the rotation, making at least 30 starts in five straight seasons.
Is Kershaw worth the long-term deal?
While his ability to stay healthy in recent years doesn't guarantee that will remain the case over the duration of his new contract, it should at least give the Dodgers more confidence in his ability to maintain his workhorse tendencies.
Moving forward, anything less than elite production from Kershaw would be a surprise. His talent of attacking the strike zone, thus limiting walks, while still posting a high strikeout rate is the dream combination for a starter.
All told, it didn't take long for Kershaw to establish himself as one of the best pitchers in baseball. Now, the Dodgers have rewarded him for that success.