Clayton Kershaw is one of the greatest pitchers to ever wear a Dodger uniform. He has put together one spectacular season after another for the Dodgers. He was widely considered the undisputed best pitcher in baseball until Max Scherzer took over that moniker in 2017 (2018 if you ask Dodger fans).
With Kershaw’s injuries and regression would the Dodgers ever consider letting him walk this off-season?
If Clayton Kershaw chooses to opt out of his contract this season, he will put the Dodgers front office in a precarious position. With so many big names also on the board and the team likely being big spenders after getting under the luxury tax this season, it remains a question as to what the exact plan of attack will be.
It also remains to be seen whether or not Kershaw would even opt out of the 60 million-plus remaining on his two seasons. Especially now that injuries have taken a hold of his season. After dealing with a bicep injury, he returned, only to make one start and make his way back onto the DL with a back injury. The same injury that kept him out for over a month in 2017.
With this flurry of injuries, Clayton opting out is no longer a foregone conclusion. However, if he were to opt out and leave Los Angeles, the Dodgers are still capable of being legitimate contenders.
The pain of losing Kershaw would hurt the hearts of fans more than it would hurt the on-field production of the team. After all, he only pitches in every fifth game. Last season the Dodgers went on a huge run and part of that run was while Kersh was missing.
This team has proven capable of producing without their ace. I believe if he is gone, they will continue to prove that they can win games with or without him. It might just be time to fully embrace the youth movement that is already in creeping in.
The current starting staff is proof of this movement. Walker Buehler (23), Alex Wood (27), Ross Stripling (28), Dennis Santana (22), and Caleb Ferguson (21) who is making his debut Wednesday. Add to that Julio Urias (21) and the Dodgers have six young starters. They would also have Kenta Maeda under contract until 2023.
Knowing they have all these young arms and still a few more talented arms that weren’t mentioned, the need for Kershaw is no longer as overbearing as it may have been when Kershaw first got his large contract. After all the front office has always been a proponent of getting younger and cheaper, signing a 30-year-old Kershaw with an injury history to yet another long-term contract is something the front office could be against.
On the other hand, this is possibly the greatest pitcher of this generation and comparing him to other 30-year-olds is not fair, because he is unlike anybody on this planet. His production warrants that contract and his accolades only further solidify the fact that he should get paid by someone.
I am not saying Kershaw does not deserve a large contract, because he definitely does, all I am saying is that if the Dodgers choose not to re-sign the veteran it won’t be that big of a surprise and the hole he leaves on this team is not as astronomical as it may seem at first glance.
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The regular season will not be a problem if Kershaw leaves, the bigger issue would be the post-season. Having a bonafide ace or two in the playoffs is important. Kershaw isn’t exactly known for his stellar playoff performances, but he provides a boost that can’t really be explained.
To be fair to Kershaw, his playoff woes have been blown out of proportion. Well, with the exception being game 5 of the World Series. He has been good in the playoffs, it is just one bad inning (usually the 7th) that comes back to bite and tired Kershaw and ruin his reputation in October.
After all, he has had some of the gutsiest performances, his game 5 save in the 2016 NLDS immediately comes to mind, along with his game 7 performance in the series-deciding loss against the Astros often goes unnoticed because of the outcome but he pitched very well.
However, the Dodgers could have two aces in the making with Buehler and Urias. Buehler especially looks like he has that “it” factor. It is unknown how Urias will return from his major shoulder injury, but if he returns the same as he left, the Dodgers have 2 young aces who look like they yearn to be in big moments.
If Kershaw opts out and leaves, the Dodgers will still be contenders and still be in good hands. If last season and this current run has shown anything, it is that the Dodgers are more than capable of surviving without Kershaw, and because of this the front office may not see Kershaw as the main target this off-season, should he opt out.