Does Lengthy Clayton Kershaw Extension Set Up LA Dodgers for Future Dynasty?

Joel ReuterFeatured ColumnistJanuary 15, 2014

PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 15:  Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches in the first inning against the against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the game on June 15, 2013 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

After an offseason of projected salary theories and $300 million rumors, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw have finally come to terms regarding a long-term extension.

The two sides agreed to a seven-year, $215 million deal that includes an opt-out clause five years in, meaning the left-hander can reach free agency at the age of 30, potentially setting himself up for another record-breaking deal.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN Los Angeles was the first to report the signing on Twitter, and she also reported the addition of the opt-out clause.

The contract surpasses Justin Verlander's as the highest ever signed by a pitcher. Verlander inked a seven-year, $180 million deal last offseason just weeks after Felix Hernandez agreed to a seven-year, $175 million deal.

It's tough to argue with Kershaw being the highest-paid pitcher in the game, as he has clearly established himself as the game's premier arm—and done it at just 25 years old.

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 11:  Pitcher Clayton Kershaw (R) #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers is presented the National League Cy Young Award plaque by former Dodger pitcher Fernando Valenzuela prior to the start of the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Do
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

He's led the National League in ERA each of the past three seasons, and he enjoyed the best season of his career in 2013. He went 16-9 with a 1.83 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 232 strikeouts in 236 innings of work.

That earned him his second National League Cy Young Award in three seasons, along with a seventh-place finish in National League MVP voting as the Dodgers reached the NLCS.

For a Dodgers team that seemingly has an endless supply of money at this point, the extension was inevitable. Kershaw was in his final year of arbitration this offseason, and there was no way the team was going to let him hit free agency. 

What does the deal mean for the Dodgers long term? Is locking up Kershaw the type of move that could set them up to be perennial National League West title winners and position them for a potential dynasty of sorts?

Kershaw is not the only player the team has signed long term, as the team now has eight players under contract the 2017 season and beyond.

Los Angeles Dodgers Long-Term Contracts
PlayerSigned ThroughRemaining Salary
SP Clayton Kershaw2020$215 million
CF Matt Kemp2019$128 million
SP Zack Greinke2018$128 million
1B Adrian Gonzalez2018$106 million
RF Yasiel Puig2018$26 million
SP Hyun-Jin Ryu2018$28.5 million
LF Carl Crawford2017$82.5 million
RF Andre Ethier2017$71.5 million
Baseball Prospectus

Extending or re-signing Hanley Ramirez, who will be a free agent at the end of the season, could be next on the team's to-do list. Beyond him, though, all of the key pieces of the team's roster are locked up for the foreseeable future.

Trading an outfielder seems inevitable, especially considering top prospect Joc Pederson was knocking on the door last year and should be ready to make his big league debut at some point in 2014. This is not a team that will be looking to shed payroll to make a splash, though.

If the Dodgers see a player they think can help them win, expect them to make a play to acquire him, regardless of what that means for the luxury tax threshold or overall payroll.

It remains to be seen how the Kershaw extension will influence the team's pursuit of Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, but it's not inconceivable to imagine the team also signing him this offseason, which would give the Dodgers perhaps the best rotation in all of baseball.

Looking at the rest of the National League, the St. Louis Cardinals would have to be considered the Dodgers' biggest roadblock to putting together a dynasty. They are loaded with young, controllable talent at the major league level and have proven to be the best in the business at cultivating their homegrown players.

They eliminated the Dodgers in six games in the NLCS last year, and as things stand right now, those two look like the cream of the crop in the National League once again.

Behind them, the Pittsburgh Pirates and Atlanta Braves both have good, young cores that could keep them in the thick of things for several years. The Washington Nationals have as good a team as any on paper, and the Cincinnati Reds could again make a run at the NL Central title.

Provided the Dodgers can avoid the slow start that plagued them last year, they should be in a good position to run away with the NL West in 2014, and they look like the best team in the division long term by a decent margin.

The last MLB team that can be considered anything close to a dynasty is the New York Yankees of the late '90s and early '00s. They reached the World Series six times in an eight-year stretch from 1996-2003 and hoisted the trophy four times.

Is it possible that over the next eight years the Los Angeles Dodgers could reach the World Series six times? Sure.

Is it probable? No.

Rattling off eight straight postseason appearances and winning a World Series title or two over the next eight years, however, seems like a very realistic possibility.

For a Dodgers team that seems willing to do whatever it takes from a financial standpoint to win—much like those aforementioned Yankees teams—it seems to have as good a chance as any to make a run at being the next MLB dynasty. Locking up Kershaw is a big step toward accomplishing that.