The Los Angeles Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw have agreed to a three-year, $93 million contract extension. There are unspecified incentives in the deal.
This deal tears up the two years and $65 million that Kershaw would’ve made if he had declined to opt-out of his previous deal and prevents him from hitting the free agent market if he had. Under previous deal, Kershaw’s average salary over the next two seasons would have been $32.5 million. With the extension, he’ll get an extra year of guaranteed money, $28 million more in total. At the outset his average annual salary will drop to $31 million, but it can grow through those aforementioned incentives.
Kershaw, who has spent his entire 11-year big league career in Dodger blue, has won three Cy Young Awards and was the 2014 National League MVP. He is 153-69 with a 2.39 ERA over 318 games, and possesses a K/BB ratio of 2,275-536. He is baseball’s active leader in ERA, ERA+, WHIP, FIP, winning percentage, shutouts, and fewest hits allowed per nine innings.
On the strength of all of that he was, until this year, considered the best pitcher in all of baseball. Various injuries over the past couple of seasons led to a velocity reduction in 2018 which was prominently on display in the World Series. While Kershaw was still an excellent pitcher, he was not up to his own dominant standards. If he had been, the decision on his opt-out might’ve been easier, as he may have been in line for a record-breaking contract for a starting pitcher. He is now, however, an ace at a crossroads.
Still, the crossroads are not that dire. After all, the Dodgers feel confident enough in him to guarantee him over $30 million a year for three more seasons. The question going forward will be whether they’re paying $30 million a year for baseball’s best pitcher or, rather, for a pitcher beginning the decline stage of a future Hall of Fame career. Kershaw has shown that he is aware of each of those possibilities, and has vowed to work hard this offseason to get back to pre-2018 form. We’ll certainly see next spring.
In the meantime, the Dodgers biggest offseason question has been answered. Answered a mere five days after their season ended.