The Los Angeles Dodgers might have to open up their wallets again soon and open them up really wide if they wish to keep left-hander Clayton Kershaw at the top of their rotation. They can thank, or send nasty notes to the Seattle Mariners who have reached an agreement with right-handed ace Felix Hernandez worth $175 million over seven years.
Kershaw is still just 24, two years younger than Hernandez and can become eligible for free agency after the 2014 season. Kershaw has led the National League in ERA the last two seasons, posting a 2.28 ERA in 2011 to go along with his 21 wins, 0.98 WHIP and Cy Young Award. He posted a 2.53 ERA last season and again led the league in WHIP at 1.02.
One could easily argue that Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball right now and, barring injury or an implosion on the mound, he will look to get paid like it in two years, if not sooner.
The Dodgers and GM Ned Coletti have discussed a long-term extension for Kershaw and if they hope to work one out they will, at the very least, pay Kershaw more than what they doled out for righty Zack Greinke this off-season. The Dodgers made Greinke the highest paid right-hander in history, at least until Hernandez inked his deal, giving him $147 million over seven years.
The ball is completely in Kershaw’s court. There is no way the Dodgers can justify offering him a long-term contract at less than what they are paying Greinke. There is also no way that the Dodgers can get away with offering Kershaw less than Hernandez at this point. Kershaw will probably ask for a bigger contract than what C.C. Sabathia, the highest paid left-hander, received from the New York Yankees prior to last year after he opted out. Sabathia was re-signed to a seven-year, $161 million contract. Kershaw can expect to exceed that easily now.
At this point, the best question might be, how much does Kershaw want and will the Dodgers give it to him? If no other pitchers get a contract bigger than the deal Hernandez received then I would imagine a seven-year, $180-190 million deal is right around the corner.