With starter Clayton Kershaw set to enter his third and final year or arbitration eligibility this off-season, the Dodgers are expected to offer their ace a long-term contract extension. Kershaw is the presumptive NL Cy Young award winner. If he should earn the hardware, it would be his second such honor in three years. As the best pitcher in baseball, statistically speaking, Kershaw is expected to earn a lot of money.
ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that, earlier this season, the Dodgers talked to Kershaw about a contract that could approach or exceed $300 million:
If it were to come to fruition, it would make Kershaw the highest-paid player in baseball. The Dodgers have plenty of money to play around with, as Frank McCourt sold the Dodgers to the Magic Johnson group for over $2 billion nearly two years ago.
The Dodgers already have over $163 million committed to players for the 2014 season, and already have over $120 million on the books for each of the 2015, ’16, and ’17 seasons. Locking Kershaw up would already give them at least five players to whom they owe at least $20 million through 2017.
In his six-year career, the 25-year-old has posted a 2.60 ERA in 1,180 innings. He has led the league in ERA and WHIP three years running. Despite the unfortunate ending to the Dodgers’ season in Game 6 of the NLCS, Kershaw had been great for them in the post-season as well, posting three quality starts in as many opportunities in the 2013 NLDS and Game 2 of the NLCS.
The Marlins are intent on adding one of the three best relievers available on the free agent market, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports. Those three, of course, are Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, and Mark Melancon.
As Ashley noted earlier, Melancon is reportedly fielding multiple four-year offers in excess of $60 million. The price tags for Chapman and Jansen are likely to match or exceed that. The Marlins haven’t typically been eager to whip out the checkbook for free agents but with the bullpen being the name of the game in baseball these days, GM Michael Hill may feel the need to match his rivals.
The Nationals, Giants, Yankees, Cubs, and Dodgers are the teams most often linked to the “big-three” group of relievers, so it won’t be easy for the Marlins.
A.J. Ramos handled the closer’s role for the Marlins this past season and did an admirable job, saving 40 games with a 2.81 ERA and a 73/35 K/BB ratio in 64 innings. There’s no doubt, though, that Chapman, Jansen, or Melancon would represent a significant upgrade in the ninth inning.
C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports that Reds manager Bryan Price is likely going to use a trio of pitchers in the closer’s role: Raisel Iglesias, Tony Cingrani, and Michael Lorenzen. At RedsFest on Saturday, Price said:
I’d say right now that we have a series of guys that I’m comfortable with in the ninth inning and that would include (Raisel) Iglesias, (Tony) Cingrani and (Michael Lorenzen). Should we stay with this format – which I intend to do – all three of those guys and maybe more could have opportunities in save situations. At this point in time, there’s no defined closer. There are multiple options and I’d like to stick with the philosophy that we’re going to have our multi-inning guys, so we’re going to need multi-closers.
This seems to be part of the new bullpen zeitgeist in which managers are shying away from strictly-defined roles for their relievers. Indians manager Terry Francona’s postseason success using Andrew Miller likely had some degree of influence on Price’s willingness to go with a three-headed giant.
Iglesias started the 2016 season in the Reds’ rotation but missed two months with an injury, then moved to the bullpen in late June. Price put him in the closer’s role down the stretch in September. The right-hander overall finished the season with a 2.53 ERA and an 83/26 K/BB ratio in 78 1/3 innings.
Cingrani battled control issues in his 63 innings of work this past season, finishing with a 4.14 ERA and a 49/37 K/BB ratio. He’s left-handed, though, and gives Price some matchup flexibility in the late innings.
Lorenzen impressed in his first full season as a reliever, ending the year with a 2.88 ERA and a 48/13 K/BB ratio in 50 innings. The right-hander uses a fastball that sits around 96 MPH on average along with a cutter and slider.