In what would almost certainly be another landscape-altering deal, the Dodgers and ace (the ace-iest of aces) Clayton Kershaw may be closing in on an extension of massive proportions.
That, according to Ken Rosenthal (and supported by Buster Olney, who says the sides are “making progress”), who says that the Dodgers are trying to get a Kershaw extension done before Friday, when arbitration figures are due to be exchanged. Kershaw, 25, is in his final year of arbitration, and is scheduled to be a free agent after this season. Few have expected that Kershaw would ever reach free agency, so an extension would not be a surprise at this point. Its size and length, however, could be.
Rosenthal notes some general possibilities – a $30 million annual salary, an opt-out clause built in, a previously scuttled seven-year, $210 million offer – but doesn’t say what the particular deal might look like. At this point, would anyone be the least bit surprised by a 10-year, $300 million deal? Earlier in negotiations, Rosenthal says, a 10-year, $250 million deal was discussed, or a 12-year, $300 million deal. Kershaw then posted the best season of his career in 2013, so who knows where it went from there. A shorter-term, huge AAV deal is always possible, but if you’re Kershaw, you’re going to want the 10-year deal for massive money … with an opt-out built in about halfway through. Then you get the best of both worlds.
Kershaw, of course, is a unique talent (his FIP hasn’t exceeded 2.89 in any of the last three years, and his combined WAR over that period is 18.5), and he’s just 25. If any pitcher was ever going to get a 10-year deal, this is the guy. Still, that kind of contract is fraught with risk – the kind that can be absorbed only by teams with perversely deep pockets. In other words, the deal makes sense for the Dodgers, even considering the huge risk.
That all said, if Kershaw is extended, I’m going to be bummed from a pure spectacle perspective. A 26-year-old ace lefty hitting free agency in this era? That would be something to watch. It would also put another big-time arm on what figures to be the best pitching free agent market in recent memory (Scherzer, Masterson, Bailey, etc.).
As for how a Kershaw extension could alter the Masahiro Tanaka situation, I’m not so sure they’re related. With their ample war chest, it seems like the Dodgers are either in on Tanaka or they’re not. They always wanted to extend Kershaw, regardless. We’ll see, though.