With the Dodgers throwing around money like never before presumably one of their next moves will be trying to lock up reigning Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw to a long-term contract extension.
This winter Kershaw and the Dodgers avoided arbitration with a two-year, $19 million deal that pays him $7.5 million this season and $11.5 million in 2013. And once that deal is over he’ll still be under team control for 2014 via arbitration, at which point Kershaw could hit the open market as a 27-year-old free agent.
All of which means there’s no huge rush for the Dodgers to get something done, but once their wallet is open it might not be such a bad idea and for his part Kershaw told Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times that he’d be open to working out an extension:
Yeah, sure, I’m always open to talks. I’ve had a great time here. I love the guys and I love everything about L.A. I’ll be here for two more years regardless. There’s no deadline or anything, so that’s good.
It’s a different situation because Kershaw still has two-plus seasons of team control remaining, but in terms of an extension buying out his potential free agent years Cole Hamels’ recent six-year, $144 million extension with the Phillies would seemingly represent the starting point for any talks.
Last week, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reported that Astros starter and reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander changed his mechanics in order to prolong his career. Specifically, Verlander lowered his release point from 7’2″ to 6’5″.
As Brooks Baseball shows, Verlander drastically altered his release point after being traded to the Astros from the Tigers on August 31, 2017. The change resulted in a huge bump in his strikeout rate. Verlander’s strikeout rate ranged between 16% and 27.4% with the Tigers, mostly settling in the 23-25% range. With The Tigers through the first five months of 2017, Verlander struck out 24.1% of batters. In the final month with the Astros, he struck out 35.8% of batters. He then maintained that rate over the entire 2018 and ’19 seasons with respective rates of 34.8% and 35.4%. Just as impressively, the release point also resulted in fewer walks. His walk rate ranged from 5.9% to 9.9% with the Tigers but was 4.4% and 5.0% the last two seasons with the Astros.
Verlander finished a runner-up in 2018 AL Cy Young Award balloting to Blake Snell before edging out teammate Gerrit Cole for the award last season. Despite the immense success, Verlander described his mechanics as unsustainable. Per The Athletic’s Jake Kaplan, Verlander said, “I changed a lot of stuff that some people would think was unnecessary. But I thought it was necessary, especially if I want to play eight, 10 more years.”
Verlander is 37 years old, so 10 more seasons would put him into Jamie Moyer territory. Moyer, who consistently ranked among baseball’s softest-tossing pitchers, pitched 25 seasons in the majors from 1986-2012. He threw 111 2/3 innings with the Phillies in 2010 at the age of 47 and 53 2/3 innings with the Rockies in 2012 at 49. But aside from Moyer and, more recently, Bartolo Colon, it’s exceedingly rare for pitchers to extend their careers into their 40’s, let alone their mid- and late-40’s.
The Astros have Verlander under contract through 2021. The right-hander will have earned close to $300 million. He’s won a World Series, a Rookie of the Year Award, an MVP Award, two Cy Youngs, and has been an eight-time All-Star. Verlander could retire after 2021 and would almost certainly be a first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2027. That he continues to tweak his mechanics in order to pitch for another decade speaks to his highly competitive nature.