Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw has been sensational since coming up to the big leagues in 2008. He has lived up to all of the hype and should be locked up by the Dodgers to a long-term contract.
Despite less than three full years of Major League Baseball experience, Kershaw is already one of the top pitchers in all of baseball and seems to get better each start.
He is not set to be a free agent until after the 2014 season, but he will likely be eligible for arbitration in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
If Kershaw continues to dominate the opposition, he could earn upwards of $8-12 million in each of the next three seasons through arbitration.
On the other hand, if the Dodgers sign Kershaw to an extension before the start of next season, they could eliminate arbitration negotiations and potentially save money.
The Dodgers should sign Kershaw to a long-term deal along the lines of six years and $35 million. By doing so, they could avoid a possible scenario of having to pay Kershaw millions of dollars more because of arbitration.
Therefore, the Dodgers should not only lock up Kershaw, but they also should do it sooner rather than later.
Here are 10 reasons why the Dodgers need to lock up Clayton Kershaw.
Clayton Kershaw's career win-loss total (28-24) is not overly impressive, but this is in large part due to the struggles of the Los Angeles Dodgers offense.
He has, however, pitched extremely well since coming up to the big leagues.
Kershaw's ERA has been among the top 10 in the National League each of the last two seasons. He has also ranked in the top 10 in Batting Average Allowed (BAA) and Win Probability Added (WPA) in 2009 and 2010.
Clayton Kershaw was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first round of the 2006 MLB amateur draft. He then quickly made his way through the Dodgers' minor-league system before eventually being called up to the big leagues in 2008.
Since coming up, Kershaw has become an instant fan favorite for Dodger fans. He possesses the ability to throw fastballs in the mid 90s and also strikes out a lot of batters, while making hitters look downright foolish at times.
The Dodgers have not had a pitcher with this much buzz since Eric Gagne, and they have not had a young starting pitcher to be this excited about since Fernando Valenzuela in the first half of the 1980s.
If the Los Dodgers don't lock up Clayton Kershaw, some other team will.
Los Angeles surely does not want to go up against the the young left-hander during the regular season or the postseason.
Kershaw is especially dominant against left-handed hitters, with a career opponents' batting average of just .201. The Dodgers currently have several left-handed hitters in their lineup, including James Loney, Andre Ethier and Tony Gwynn Jr., all of whom would be at a major disadvantage against Kershaw.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have one of the deeper rotations in the NL, but they do not have any elite pitchers other than Clayton Kershaw.
Chad Billingsley has looked like an ace at times, but he has been very inconsistent over the last two years. Meanwhile, Hiroki Kuroda, Ted Lilly and Jon Garland are all middle-of-the-rotation types of starting pitchers.
It can be extremely beneficial for the Dodgers to have a go-to ace that can start Game 1 of a playoff series to get the series started off on the right foot.
An ace can also pitch every five days during the regular season, including once every four games when off days fall in between starts.
Clayton Kershaw's simple presence on the mound can intimidate opposing batters. He is listed at 6'3" and stands on a pitching mound that is approximately 10 inches higher than home plate.
Kershaw can also throw a fastball generally clocked between 93 and 95 miles per hour, which can be the most intimidating, as well as the most effective, pitch in baseball when located correctly.
The ability to intimidate the opposition is not only important when facing hitters, but it can also affect the opponent's ability to concentrate in the field. Oftentimes, we see hitters struggle at the plate and then show effects of frustration by making careless errors in the field later in the ball game.
As of right now, the Los Angeles Dodgers' only left-handed starting pitchers are Clayton Kershaw and Ted Lilly. The Dodgers also have very few left-handed relief pitchers other than Hong-Chih Kuo.
Kershaw typically pitches on the days between Jon Garland's and Chad Billingsley's starts, causing a righty-lefty-righty scenario.
While the Dodgers' pitching staff will inevitably change over the next three to six years, the chances are that they will still have more right-handers than southpaws and will therefore benefit from the fact that Kershaw is left-handed.
With all of the young talented starting pitchers that the world champion San Francisco Giants have on their roster, the Los Angeles Dodgers figure to compete with the Giants for many years to come. The two teams play each other 19 times per year during the regular season, with the possibility of an additional postseason matchup.
Luckily for Clayton Kershaw, pitching against the Giants has been anything but a problem.
He beat the Giants on opening night, allowing zero runs in seven innings. In Kershaw's career, he is 3-1 against San Francisco with an incredible ERA of 1.07 in 50.2 innings pitched.
A starting pitcher's ability to pitch late into ball games can be extremely valuable to his team because it prevents relief pitchers from being overworked.
During the early part of Clayton Kershaw's career, he frequently struggled to pitch past the fifth or sixth inning because of control issues.
However, Kershaw's walks per nine innings (BB/9) decreased from 4.79 per nine innings in 2009 down to 3.61 last season. As a result, his innings per start have jumped up from 5.6 in 2009 to a very solid 6.25 last season.
Besides being an absolute beast on the mound, Clayton Kershaw possesses several useful intangibles.
For one, Kershaw is an excellent bunter. He had 18 successful sacrifice bunts last year, tops in the NL.
Kershaw has also been able to stay healthy throughout his three-year major-league career. The Los Angeles Dodgers have made an effort to not overwork him too early in his career, which has paid off up to this point.
Still just 23 years old, we have not even begun to see the best of Clayton Kershaw.
In just the past three seasons, Kershaw has already improved his slider considerably, and he has also increased his accuracy.
Pitchers typically hit their prime between the ages of 27 and 34, which is still quite some time away for the young left-hander.
Therefore, Kershaw should be at another level by 2015, the year after his current contract ends.