The bulk of the talk about baseball’s pending free agents has centered on Bryce Harper and with good reason. The young outfielder for the Washington Nationals could very well sign baseball’s first $400 million contract in the off-season. He may not get that much; it will likely depend on how many teams decide to engage in the inevitable bidding war for his services.
But lost in all the talk over Harper’s pending riches has been another contract that could be just as lucrative. It will not be a ten-year deal, but it could very well average as much if not more per season that Harper’s.
Who could be the lucky recipient of such a deal? That player would be none other than the superstar pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Clayton Kershaw.
Kershaw set a new record back in 2014 when he signed a seven-year, $215 million contract with the Dodgers. The mark made him the highest paid player in the history of the game at $30.714 million. He is currently fourth on the list behind Diamondbacks pitcher Zack Greinke, Red Sox pitcher David Price, and Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera.
He stands to make $65 million over the next two seasons. But he could also decide to opt out of contract after this season and renegotiate. Why wouldn’t he opt out? If Zack Greinke is worth $34 million/season, surely Kershaw is worth at least $35 million if not more ($40 million?).
Look at what he’s accomplished. In the four seasons since he signed his last mega-deal, his ERA has been sub-2.0 twice, and his highest was just 2.31 (2017). That’s not just great; that’s phenomenal!
He’s been voted into the All-Star game every season since 2011. He’s a three-time CY Young winner, five-time ERA leader, three-time wins and strikeout leader, and has won the NL MVP (2014). Kershaw was an integral part of the team’s World Series run last year.
While they ultimately lost the Series to Houston, Kershaw certainly did his part. He had a masterful performance in Game One (seven innings, three hits, one earned run, 11 strikeouts). Game Five wasn’t a good one for him, but after Yu Darvish blew up early in Game Seven, he came in and pitched four shutout innings on short rest.
If the Dodgers are going to make it back to the World Series this season, Kershaw will likely play an important role once again. They are certainly one of the team’s favored to make it. According to Betway.com, their current odds of winning the World Series are 8:1 (as of April 19).
Will they make it back? It is way too early to say, of course. A couple of injuries have held them back a little. But the season is just a few weeks old. There is a lot of time and a lot of baseball to be played still.
As for Kershaw, he is starting out as masterful as ever in 2018 with an ERA of 1.73, WHIP of .88, and 31 strikeouts to his name in just five starts. He got his first win of the season on April 15 with a seven-inning, two-hit, 12-strikeout performance against the Diamondbacks.
It’s fun to watch, and the Dodgers are already paying him well. But with the ever-changing market putting an even higher premium on pitching these days, could he actually be underpaid? If so, would something closer to $40 million a season be only right?
Performance wise, there isn’t a pitcher in baseball that comes close to measuring up to his production. He definitely deserves to be the highest paid pitcher in the game. But what could keep him from being the highest paid player in baseball is his back.
He’s missed time in three of the last four seasons with back issues. If a team is going to pay someone north of $1 million a start, they are going go want to at least 30 starts a season out of him. Kershaw hasn’t started more than 30 games in a season since 2015.
However, if the Dodgers are not willing to pay him that much, there is another team that likely will. No one is going to make him a $400 million man like Harper. But it wouldn’t be shocking to see him make $40 million a season.