The Los Angeles Dodgers are about to make their star pitcher Clayton Kershaw MLB‘s first $300 million man this offseason. The complex deal has been in the works for over a year and all sides are confident that Kershaw will be a Dodger for life at $300 million. He is an odds on favorite to be the 2013 NL Cy Young winner and the hard throwing lefty is now in line for a huge payday.
If the deal is indeed done this fall as all involved feel it will then Kershaw will be the highest paid player in baseball. The New York Yankees‘ Alex Rodriguez‘s current contract is the largest in baseball, a 10-year, $275 million deal that could reach $305 million if he achieves all of its incentives.
The key in my mind to this deal is how will it affect the rest of the salary structure of the the MLB teams? Look, Kershaw is an outstanding pitcher and is a joy to watch. However, paying him $300 million, actually paying anyone that kind of money is irresponsible. If you are a fan of the Washington Nationals you are aware that they are talking with Jordan Zimmermann about an extension. The team is two years away from extensions for Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez in 2017. The Atlanta Braves, New York Mets, St. Louis Cardinals and the Tampa Bay Rays all have young under contract control pitchers who someday will wish to get an extension. You can bet that all of baseball will be watching what the Dodgers do in this deal.
There has never been a $200 million pitcher let alone one in the $300 million range. Earlier this year, the Seattle Mariners‘ star Felix Hernandez agreed to a seven-year, $175 million contract, and Justin Verlander agreed to an extension that results in the Detroit Tigers paying him $180 million for the 2013 through 2019 seasons. CC Sabathia signed a seven-year, $161 million deal with the New York Yankees after the 2008 season.
The Dodgers have more cash than any other team in baseball after signing a new regional cable TV deal with Time Warner that paid them in excess of $6 billion. The aggressive effort to sign Kershaw, who could be eligible for free agency after the 2014 season was priority of the Dodgers’ ownership since a group headlined by Mark Walter, Stan Kasten and Magic Johnson purchased the team for a record $2 billion before the 2012 season.
Frankly long term deal for pitchers has never been Kasten’s style. He has always been a three or a four year deal kind of a guy in the past. I have greatest respect for Kershaw; he is an amazing talent, and I certainly do not begrudge him a big payday. That said I hope the Dodgers come to their senses and give Kershaw a fair but not silly contract. Having the Dodgers throwing funny money around does not make sense, and in the end it normally does not come out well as a business deal.