Rumours were abound toward the end of the baseball season that the Dodgers were once again considering opening their seemingly bottomless wallet, this time in an attempt to lock up the ace of their pitching staff; Clayton Kershaw. Unlike the other notable “long term” deals for elite pitchers that were signed in 2013 (Justin Verlander – 7yrs/$180 million), this one was a rumoured “deal for life;” somewhere in the neighbourhood of 10 years/$300 million. However, both sides were unable to come to an agreement, mainly because of Kershaw’s concerns of negotiating during the season; not to mention the thought of inking a deal of such magnitude.
Apparently all Kershaw needed was a little time. It was announced on Wednesday that the Dodgers and Kershaw had come to an agreement on a 7 year/$215 million extension. The deal, which has an annual payout of $30.714 million, is the not only the richest contract ever handed out to a pitcher, but also the highest average annual payout in baseball history; and the first one to reach $30 million.
The ridiculous thing to consider is that the contract may work out to be a bargain for LA in the long run.
Now as preposterous as that sounds, just take a look at Kershaw’s resume. This isn’t just another Barry Zito-esque contract, this is a long term commitment with arguably the best pitcher in the game today. Kershaw is a two time Cy Young Award winner (2011 & 2013) and finished 2nd in voting to R.A the Knuckle Man (remember that?) in 2012. Not only has Kershaw won the Cy in two out of three seasons, but he has also posted the best ERA in the NL in those three seasons; culminating in winning the Pitching Triple Crown in 2011. In fact, Kershaw’s 2.60 ERA to start his career is the best in the Live Ball Era of Baseball (since 1920). During his remarkable three year run (2011-13), Kershaw was the closest thing to a sure bet that you could find. Here are his stats in those years:
2011: 21 – 11 • 233.1 IP • 2.28 ERA • 0.98 WHIP • 248 K’s (Won Cy Young Award and Triple Crown)
2012: 14 – 9 • 227.2 IP • 2.53 ERA • 1.02 WHIP • 229 K’s (2nd in Cy Young voting)
2013: 16 – 9 • 236 IP • 1.83 ERA • 0.92 WHIP • 232 K’s (Won Cy Young Award)
What’s more ridiculous is the fact that Kershaw will only be 26 come Opening Day!
Now I can’t continue praising the deal any further without mentioning the obligatory fear/concern about signing pitchers to long term deals. The mindset around the game is that pitchers tend to break down as they get older, and that they sometimes age quicker than a position player because of the amount of innings they pitch over their career. The other concern is paying such an astronomical price for somebody who is only going to play every five days. I can completely understand those concerns. What I also understand is the desire to win, and to win now. A pitcher of Kershaw’s calibre gives any team an immediate chance to win, especially a perennial contender like the Dodgers.
Now as far as the injuries and breaking down concerns, as I mentioned earlier, Kershaw is only 26! He is also entering what is considered the prime age for pitchers (26-28) and has never had a major injury or spent time on the Disabled List. By the time the deal expires, Kershaw will be 33, unless he opts out after year five when he’ll be 31. To put into perspective, both C.C Sabathia and Barry Zito were in their 31st years when they signed their 7 years deals.
At the end of the day, yes it is a lot of money, and yes there is the potential for injuries and other unfortunate mishaps, but it’s a risk that is DEFINITELY worth taking. I’m sure if you poll any MLB GM they would jump at the chance to sign a 26 year old lefty who pumps mid 90’s and has the nastiest curveball in the game; let alone one that is a two time Cy Young winner. Seriously, you have to see Kershaw’s curveball if you haven’t
It has even caused Vin Scully to gush like a school girl…
Remember… this is a man who has broadcast baseball since the Dodgers were in Brooklyn. He even referred to Dwight Gooden’s curve as “Lord Charles” (a take on the popular term for the deuce Uncle Charles). For Kershaw, all he could muster through amazement was to refer to it as “Public Enemy Number One.”
Now anyway, where were we… Oh yes the Dodgers and the bottomless pockets of the Guggenheims/Johnson ownership…
We all know that money is not an option for the Magic Johnson driven Dodgers and we all knew that they were pretty much going to pay any price to keep Kershaw in Dodger blue as long as possible. What’s crazy is that this signing could very well be only the SECOND big signing by the Dodgers this offseason. Now although it may not be as high in dollar value, if the Dodgers were to land top free agent Masahiro Tanaka (which they are rumoured to be the favourites to do so) it would be equally as buzzworthy.
It would also ensure that the Dodgers not only have the highest payroll in the majors, but also the highest paid rotation, as they feature the likes of Josh Becket, Zack Greinke’s $140+ million deal, rookie sensation Hyun-Jun Ryu, and newly signed Dan Haren. Clearly Magic is aiming to make the Dodgers the 1980’s Showtime Lakers of the baseball world.
Now that Mr. Kershaw has inked his long term deal, I wonder what the Dodgers AL brethren (the Angels) will do when it comes to resigning their own franchise superstar; Mr. Mike Trout. You have to assume that Trout is a shoo in to make $30+ a year. Perhaps this time next year we could be discussing the first $400 million dollar contract signing in North American pro sports. Only time will tell.