It's no secret that the Los Angeles Dodgers have made the cash-strapped days of the Frank McCourt era a distant memory. As if the baseball world needed another reminder, the team recently made its superstar pitcher, Clayton Kershaw, the highest-paid player in the history of the sport.
His seven-year, $250 million contract extension, first reported by ESPN's Ramona Shelburne, even includes an opt-out clause after five years. This means that Kershaw could potentially be in line for an even richer deal if he decides to opt out as a 30-year-old in 2018.
Of course, a deal this lengthy and this expensive does not come without risk. The Dodgers are taking a big gamble, but for a soon-to-be 26-year-old pitcher who has won two out of the last three Cy Young Awards and has never landed on the disabled list, it's a move they had to make.
As the dust settles and the 2014 season approaches, here are three bold predictions for Kershaw's record-setting deal:
1. Clayton Kershaw will win at least two more Cy Young Awards
Baseball teams only hand out seven-year, $250 million extensions to the best pitchers on the planet, and Kershaw happens to be the best pitcher on the planet.
The 2011 and 2013 Cy Young Award winner should have also received the honor in 2012, but the baseball world decided to champion the R.A. Dickey feel-good story, despite Kershaw compiling a lower ERA and WHIP than Dickey. Perhaps Dickey received the award because his knuckleball was able to strike out 230 batters, while Kershaw only fanned 229.
In any event, Kershaw responded to his snub by posting a 1.83 ERA in 2013, the league's lowest since Pedro Martinez's 1.74 in 2000.
Besides a nonexistent injury history, the scary part is that Kershaw won't turn 26 until March.
Most pitchers are only entering their prime at this age. Kershaw is already there.
And with so much money invested in their prized southpaw, the Dodgers will be sure to continue their responsible usage of Kershaw. He has just five career starts of 120 or more pitches.
If Kershaw progresses at this rate, it won't be a question of whether or not he wins multiple Cy Young Awards during the next few seasons. It will be a question of how many.
2. Clayton Kershaw will help the Dodgers win the World Series
Every Dodgers fan remembers how last season ended.
Kershaw, the team's most reliable pitcher, shockingly imploded in the biggest game of his life. If Dodgers fans thought it was rough, imagine how Kershaw has felt these past few months.
His last memory of the 2013 season was walking off the field as the St. Louis Cardinals were piling onto what would end up being a 9-0 shellacking to end the Dodgers' playoff run.
Albeit $250 million probably washed some of the bad taste from his mouth, but a competitor like Kershaw doesn't forget the bad. (See: Dickey 2012)
He knows the deep-pocketed Guggenheim ownership group has gone all in to put a legitimate contender on the field. And with most of the key pieces locked in for the next few seasons, a championship is well within reach. The team proved its potential last season, coming within two wins of its first World Series appearance in 25 years.
If the Dodgers find themselves in another win-or-go-home game come October, you can bet Kershaw will be on the mound, eager to live up to the hefty expectations placed upon his shoulders with the new extension.
And you can bet he won't let the season end prematurely on his watch again. Instead of sitting in the dugout watching another team celebrate at his expense, it will be Kershaw doing the dancing with his teammates sooner rather than later.
3. Kershaw will opt out in 2018
Assuming the first two predictions come true, Kershaw will enter the 2018 season with at least four Cy Young Awards and at least one World Series ring by the age of 30.
That's the kind of resume that launches pitchers into the Hall of Fame at the end of their careers.
For Kershaw, it'll be the kind of resume that he can use to to test the free-agent market, which would almost certainly assure him an even richer contract—if that's even possible.
The opt-out clause after five years was an essential part of the deal for Kershaw, according to Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times.
The Dodgers, fresh off finalizing a multi-billion-dollar television deal, should have no problem outbidding other suitors for the Texas native's prized left arm in the event that he opts out in 2018.
For Kershaw, it's a win-win situation.
For the Dodgers, it's a win-win intuition.