Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher of this generation, and nobody will argue against that. The one blemish on his Hall of Fame resume has been the postseason.
Clayton Kershaw will one day be enshrined in Cooperstown as a member of the Dodgers, but the legacy his career leaves will be decided by what he can accomplish in October.
So far his playoff career has been downright mediocre with a 4-7 record and a 4.55 ERA. While he hasn’t been a “choker” like many fans like to suggest, he has had some inconsistent performances in the playoffs and has yet to go on a Madison Bumgarner-esque run.
Kershaw will likely opt out of his current deal at the conclusion of next season when he will be 30 years old, going on 31 before the start of the 2019 season.
While he has had a stellar career, the Dodgers must win the World Series with him in one of these next two years, or it may be best to let Kershaw go in free agency.
While it sounds absurd, it’s easy to remember the Dodgers balked at paying Zack Greinke $30+ million due to his age and injury concerns. That is starting to sound like the same situation that Kershaw could fall into.
In back to back seasons, Kershaw has missed time due to a bad back, and that is not something that tends to go away as a player ages.
Paying a pitcher that will be 31 years old before the 2019 season on a big $30+ million a year deal just doesn’t sound smart. The Dodgers front office team is eyeing to decrease their payroll these next few years to fall out of luxury tax hell.
If the Dodgers fail to win a World Series with Kershaw in the prime of his career, why should they expect to win one with him when he is no longer at his best?
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If the Dodgers do end up winning the World Series this year or next year, then it would feel like a lifetime achievement deal to give Kershaw another long-term deal even with the injury risks. However, if they do fail to win a World Series, they should consider moving on from him.
While losing an ace is never easy, the Dodgers have an abundance of young pitching, not to mention their payroll would be freed up by Kershaw leaving and they would be able to sign another top-tier player or trade for a good controllable starter.
They could opt to go this route to acquire a younger player who does not come with the same injury risks or long-term high expense commitment.
This Dodger front office seems to like short-term commitments like the three-year deals to Kazmir, McCarthy and Rich Hill. Kershaw would most likely require another five to six-year contract at least, which doesn’t seem feasible for a 31-year-old with a bad back.
This means that Friday could be the start of a defining moment for Kershaw. Should he finally put together a strong playoff run and the Dodgers win it all then he will likely stay a Dodger forever.
Should Kershaw continue to struggle when it matters most, then the front office could decide to let him go if he opts out, and try to go in a different direction.
While this would definitely be one of the most unpopular fan moves, it makes sense to spend that $30+ million a year elsewhere on a player who can contribute every day like free-agent-to-be Bryce Harper or Giancarlo Stanton who could be acquired in a trade.