Dodgers’ latest move hints Clayton Kershaw’s future could be elsewhere

Adam Weinrib
PHOENIX, ARIZONA - SEPTEMBER 24: Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers looks on from the dugout during the sixth inning of the MLB game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on September 24, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, ARIZONA - SEPTEMBER 24: Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers looks on from the dugout during the sixth inning of the MLB game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on September 24, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images) /
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The Los Angeles Dodgers are going to retain Clayton Kershaw…right? He’s a figurehead of this franchise, and won’t be allowed to walk, no matter what the cost…right?!

Well…we’ve got some news for you just ahead of Sunday evening’s deadline for options, qualifying offers and the first bunch of free agent decisions. And it doesn’t feel good.

Kershaw did end the 2021 season in some form of purgatory, nursing an elbow issue that kept him off the postseason roster. Combined with Max Muncy’s absence, those injury concerns combined to sink the Dodgers’ depth — and throw the lefty’s immediate future into some form of doubt.

Surely, though, LA would be pursuing him heavily enough that they’d be willing to attach a qualifying offer to their generational ace. That would mean, if Kershaw’s market collapsed entirely, the Dodgers would be responsible for ~$18 million on a one-year deal, a palatable sum for even a regressing version of the face of their franchise.

After all, this team prints money! They couldn’t afford that risk, even after paying him $31 million for 2021?

Apparently…um…they couldn’t. The Dodgers announced on Sunday evening that they wouldn’t be extending a qualifying offer to the 33-year-old starter, leaving him untethered and up for grabs.

The Dodgers really won’t extend a qualifying offer to Clayton Kershaw?

Have to say we didn’t see this development coming, and it has us deeply concerned that some other franchise is going to get the final seasons of Kershaw’s Hall of Fame career.

The only “optimistic” view of this decision isn’t that optimistic, either. Perhaps the Dodgers know more about Kershaw’s injury than any other team, and that’s led them to assess his true value as something below $18 million? If so…that doesn’t make us feel any better! It makes us theorize that Kershaw’s elbow could be significantly damaged enough to end his tenure as an effective starter.

As for who’s actually getting the offer? Corey Seager, who’ll probably go, and Chris Taylor, who might stay, and also might make about the same amount of money annually for two or three years.

If this really is the end for Kershaw, and he wraps his career with the Texas Rangers or another irrelevant franchise, we’ll be certifiably upset.

All public indications are he has plenty left in the tank when healthy; his 144 Ks in 121.1 innings last season seem well worth $18.4 million to us. Hopefully, the Dodgers reconsider their stance, and come to a budgetary conclusion here.

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