Clayton Kershaw has a big decision to make this week


It’s probably pretty difficult to focus on your future mere minutes after losing the deciding game of a World Series, but (a) Clayton Kershaw was asked about his future last night; and (b) given how quickly he has to make decisions about that future, it was fair to ask him.

Specifically, Kershaw was asked about his opt-out clause, which he must either exercise or not exercise in the next three days. If he does, he becomes a free agent. If he doesn’t, he remains under contract with the Dodgers for the next two seasons at $32 million in 2019 and $33 million in 2020.

Here’s what he said about that at the postgame presser last night when asked if he wanted to stay in Los Angeles:

Look, you know, I know the future questions are obviously coming for myself. I don’t want to take away from tonight, obviously, and what everybody is feeling. I never want to put the focus just on me or anything like that. This was a tough one for us tonight, it really was. Myself, personally, you know, it was tough. David pitched a great game and I got outpitched and we lost the game. I’ve got three days now to think about all of that stuff before anything happens. And so it will be an eventful three days for me, and I’ll try to figure it out . . .

. . . I haven’t made the decision yet. We have three days to talk, between us and the Dodgers, see what happens. And then we’ll go from there.

When asked if he thinks he and his agent will talk to the Dodgers about a possible extension before he has to opt-out or not, Kershaw said, “I think we’ll have some conversations, for sure.”

Kershaw, who will turn 31 during spring training, posted a 2.73 ERA and 155/29 K/BB ratio in 161 and a third innings over 26 starts in 2018. As I wrote last night, he’s not the pitcher he was when he signed the seven-year, $215 million deal he’s currently on. His fastball velocity is down, likely due to back and shoulder problems he’s experienced over the past couple of seasons and, partially, because of the mileage on his odometer. He’s still better than most pitchers in the game, but he’s certainly at a turning point in his career.

He could come back after a productive and healthy offseason, return to his Cy Young-caliber form and show everyone that his 2018 season was a fluke. He could, however, not regain his fastball but make the sort of adjustments great pitchers often have to make as they age and lose a few ticks, continuing on as a valuable pitcher for many years to come, albeit a different kind of pitcher. There is a risk, however, that he never regains his fastball and he is not able to make such adjustments and the diminished Kershaw we saw in the postseason is what he’ll be throughout his 30s.

What does that mean for Kershaw and the Dodgers? It’s hard to say.

On the one hand, it’s hard to imagine him not being in a Dodgers uniform. On the other hand, even if Kershaw likely can’t get a deal on the free agent market with an average annual value higher than he’s under contract for if he doesn’t opt-out, it’s not hard to imagine him getting a multi-year deal that keeps him under contract someplace for much longer than two years and for a greater aggregate value than the $65 million he’s guaranteed if he stays put. Even if he’s not Cy Young Kershaw, a ton of teams would love to have him. There would certainly be a market for his services if he left Los Angeles.

Yet, I still think he’ll stay in Los Angeles, just not on the current deal. Rather, I can see him signing a new deal in which the current two years left are restructured with deferred money and more guaranteed years, giving him the equivalent of that longer-term, lower average annual salary that he might get out on the free agent market, only getting it from the Dodgers. Doing that would serve everyone’s purposes, it would seem:

  • It would give Kershaw more guaranteed dollars than he has at the moment;
  • It would allow the Dodgers to lower their single year commitments to him, which would give them greater flexibility and would allow them a better chance to stay under the luxury tax threshold; and
  • It would keep Kershaw in Los Angeles which is good for both him and the Dodgers from a baseball and marketing/legacy perspective.

It doesn’t have to go that way, but I suspect it does. Either in the next three days or following a Kershaw opt-out in which the Dodgers and Kershaw both realize that they’re right for each other.


Olson blasts two HRs, Acuña has 4 hits as Strider, Braves overpower Phillies 11-4

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

ATLANTA – Given a seven-run lead in the first inning, Atlanta right-hander Spencer Strider could relax and keep adding to his majors-leading strikeout total.

“That game felt like it was over pretty quick,” Strider said.

Ronald Acuña Jr. drove in three runs with four hits, including a two-run single in Atlanta’s seven-run first inning, and the Braves beat the Philadelphia Phillies 11-4 on Sunday night to split the four-game series.

“Getting a lead first is big, especially when you get that big of a lead,” Strider said. “… When we’re putting up runs, my job isn’t to be perfect. My job is to get outs.”

Following the game, Braves manager Brian Snitker announced right-hander Michael Soroka will be recalled to make his first start since the 2020 season on Monday night at Oakland.

Matt Olson hit a pair of two-run homers for Atlanta, and Strider became the fastest pitcher in modern history to reach 100 strikeouts in a season.

“It’s incredible,” said Acuña through a translator of Strider. “Every time he goes out to pitch it seems like he’s going to strike everybody out.”

Acuña hit a run-scoring triple in the fifth before Olson’s second homer to center. Acuña had two singles in the first when the Braves sent 11 batters to the plate, collected seven hits and opened a 7-0 lead. Led by Acuña and Olson, who had three hits, the Braves set a season high with 20 hits.

Strider (5-2) struck out nine while pitching six innings of two-run ball. The right-hander fired a called third strike past Nick Castellanos for the first out of the fourth, giving him 100 strikeouts in 61 innings and topping Jacob deGrom‘s 61 2/3 innings in 2021 as the fastest to 100 in the modern era.

“It’s cool,” Strider said, adding “hopefully it’ll keep going.”

Olson followed Acuña’s leadoff single with a 464-foot homer to right-center. Austin Riley added another homer before Ozzie Albies and Acuña had two-run singles in the long first inning.

Phillies shortstop Trea Turner and left fielder Kyle Schwarber each committed an error on a grounder by Orlando Arcia, setting up two unearned runs in the inning.

Strider walked Kody Clemens to open the third. Brandon Marsh followed with a two-run homer for the Phillies’ first hit. Schwarber hit a two-run homer off Collin McHugh in the seventh.


Michael Harris II celebrated the one-year anniversary of his major league debut by robbing Schwarber of a homer with a leaping catch at the center-field wall in the second. As Harris shook his head to say “No!” after coming down with the ball on the warning track, Strider pumped his fist in approval on the mound – after realizing Harris had the ball.

“He put me through an emotional roller coaster for a moment,” Strider said.


Soroka was scratched from his scheduled start at Triple-A Gwinnett on Sunday, setting the stage for his final step in his comeback from two torn Achilles tendons.

“To get back is really a feather in that kid’s cap,” Snitker said.

Soroka will be making his first start in the majors since Aug. 3, 2020, against the New York Mets when he suffered a torn right Achilles tendon. Following a setback which required a follow-up surgery, he suffered another tear of the same Achilles tendon midway through the 2021 season.

Soroka suffered another complication in his comeback when a hamstring injury slowed his progress this spring.

Acuña said he was “super happy, super excited for him, super proud of him” and added “I’m just hoping for continued good health.”

Soroka looked like an emerging ace when he finished 13-4 with a 2.68 ERA in 2019 and placed second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting and sixth in the NL Cy Young voting.

The Braves are 0-3 in bullpen committee games as they attempt to overcome losing two key starters, Max Fried (strained left forearm) and Kyle Wright (right shoulder inflammation) to the injured list in early May. Each is expected to miss at least two months.

RHP Dereck Rodriguez, who gave up one hit in two scoreless innings, was optioned to Gwinnett after the game to clear a roster spot for Soroka.


Phillies right-hander Dylan Covey (0-1), claimed off waivers from the Los Angeles Dodgers on May 20, didn’t make it through the first inning. Covey allowed seven runs, five earned, and six hits, including the homers by Olson and Riley.


Phillies: 3B Alex Bohm was held out with hamstring tightness. … LHP José Alvarado (left elbow inflammation) threw the bullpen session originally scheduled for Saturday. Manager Rob Thomson said there was no report that Alvarado, who was placed on the injured list on May 10, had any difficulty.


Phillies: Following an off day, LHP Ranger Suárez (0-1, 9.82 ERA) is scheduled to face Mets RHP Kodai Senga (4-3, 3.94 ERA) in Tuesday night’s opener of a three-game series in New York.

Braves: Soroka was 1-2 with a 4.33 ERA in eight games with Triple-A Gwinnett. He allowed a combined four hits and two runs over 10 2/3 innings in his last two starts. RHP Paul Blackburn (7-6, 4.28 ERA in 2022) is scheduled to make his 2023 debut for Oakland as he returns from a finger injury.