Dodgers: A Kershaw Injury in 2018 Could Change Everything

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 24: Clayton Kershaw
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 24: Clayton Kershaw /

When Clayton Kershaw went down with an injury in 2017, every Dodgers fan feared the worst. But another injury might even change how he approaches his expiring contract.

Clayton Kershaw is the highest paid player annually in Major League Baseball at $35.5M per year. And yet, it seems fairly likely he will opt out of his current contract with the Dodgers at the end of the 2018 season. If he were to maintain his current contract, he would make $70M between 2019 and 2020. But experts and almost every fan around baseball know that Kershaw will more than likely opt-out. And why not? If you’re the best pitcher in the world, know your worth. However, there are a few circumstances that could impact his decision.

Kershaw went down with a back injury in July last season and did not really return until September. Even when he did return, Los Angeles took it fairly slow with his progression. The whole world knew they were playoff bound, so there was not a need to rush him back into the thick of it. Kershaw pitched in just six games after his July 23rd start against Atlanta. If this injury were to flare up again in 2018, might that be enough for him to want to keep his guaranteed contract?

Well, the short answer to that is no. Because even when he isn’t 100 percent, he’s still Clayton Kershaw. The list of potential suitors who wouldn’t mind taking a shot at signing Kershaw is long, as would be expected of a three-time Cy Young winner. Not to mention that fact that Kershaw will only be thirty years old when Spring Training rolls around. The only real question in his next contract is whether or not it will be his last contract. That depends entirely on how long Kershaw wants to play. Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, and Nolan Ryan all played well into their forties. Sandy Koufax on the other hand, retired at 30 due to health concerns. So it really depends on how he feels.

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If he does choose to opt-out of his contract, Kershaw could easily demand a salary of $40M per year. The length of the contract is almost irrelevant at this point because the annual average is the toughest part to swallow. This is especially true for Los Angeles. This ownership group is not particularly inclined to hand out large contracts or get into bidding wars, possibly not even for a guy who could be one of the all time greats. Financially however, the Dodgers could more than take on this sort of salary.

If he does struggle in 2018, it’s entirely possible that Kershaw keeps his contract or lowers his expected salary. There is always a hope that he will give some sort of home team discount to a place where he got his start. Kershaw has spent ten years playing in Los Angeles, and it’s hard to imagine he wants to play anywhere other than here.  Los Angeles is poised to compete for a very long time, and number 22 will be leading them.

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Regardless though, Kershaw does not seem like the type to be incredibly selfish with his money. Kershaw gives a lot of his earnings as well as his time to charitable organizations, and earning more could help that. That’s the type of guy we want to see bring a championship back to LA.