The Dodgers Can’t Pay Clayton Kershaw for His Past

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LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 28: Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts after allowing a sixth inning home run to Mookie Betts (not pictured) #50 of the Boston Red Sox in Game Five of the 2018 World Series at Dodger Stadium on October 28, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 28: Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts after allowing a sixth inning home run to Mookie Betts (not pictured) #50 of the Boston Red Sox in Game Five of the 2018 World Series at Dodger Stadium on October 28, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images) /
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The Dodgers are likely going to be asked for a new deal by Clayton Kershaw prior to his opt out.  Kershaw must be paid for the pitcher he currently is, not what he once was.

The Dodgers are going to find out very soon whether Clayton Kershaw is going to opt out of the last two years on his deal or not.  Regardless of whether Kershaw declines the almost 70 million dollars left on his current deal, he is most likely going to ask the Dodgers to tack years onto the end of the two years left on his contract.

That is where things will get interesting and uncomfortable at the negotiating table.  There is no doubt that Clayton Kershaw is one of the best left-handed starting pitchers ever, not just for the Dodgers, but in baseball history.  The problem is that even though Kershaw will be just 31 years old on opening day of the 2019 season, the regression is evident.

Kershaw used to blaze his 93-94 mile per hour fastball past hitters with ease, especially after throwing them off balance with his well-known curveball.  Then there is his biting slider that looked like a fastball but then dove and was several miles per hour slower than his fastball.  Now his fastball and slider are just a couple ticks different in velocity.

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At the beginning of 2016, Kershaw averaged 94 miles per hour on his fastball.  This season, Clayton’s fastball averaged 91 miles per hour.  The difference is what he can now get away with.  Before Kershaw was able to make more mistakes but now his mistakes are magnified.  Room for error is much smaller as his hard-hit percentage went up from 27% to 36% this season.

Then there are the numerous injuries that have plagued Clayton Kershaw over the last several seasons.  Multiple back ailments, and this season it was biceps tendonitis that bit Kershaw after an April start against the Marlins.  Kershaw walked a career-high six batters that day and it was clear something wasn’t right.

Going forward it’s fair to wonder how healthy Kershaw will stay.  Back injuries are not something that gets better with age or goes away for good.  At 30 years old this season, Kershaw topped out at 92 miles per hour, usually ranging around 90-91.  How far will Kershaw’s velocity drop?  The more it drops the less effective his slider will become.

The part that makes this the toughest is that nobody works harder than Clayton Kershaw.  The day after he makes a start he is the first one on the field, running and working out to prepare for his next battle.  It is also hard to find a better person in sports than Kershaw who is the type of guy you want as the face of your franchise.

Next. Rundown on the Dodgers headed to free agency. dark

All that aside, the Dodgers have to be smart and not overpay Kershaw, even for all he’s done for the Dodger organization.  They cannot pay him for the past, they must pay him for who he is going forward.  Who he is going forward is still questionable, he will be better than most of the league, but he is not who he once was, the best pitcher in baseball.

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