Latest Dodgers-Clayton Kershaw contract prediction seems excessive

Clayton Kershaw is a Los Angeles Dodgers legend. A future Hall of Famer. Arguably the best pitcher of his generation. There is a sad reality in recent years, however.

The beloved left-hander hasn’t made 30 starts or thrown 200 or more innings in a single season since … 2015. Shocking. Bet you didn’t think it was that long either. He’s no longer the strikeout machine he once was. And even worse, he was hampered by an elbow injury in 2021 at the age of 33. Really not great.

Then again, he’s Dodgers royalty. He should be treated differently no matter the circumstances. He has a spot on the roster no matter the situation … but shouldn’t there be an injection of reason here, given the “decline” we’re witnessing?

Kershaw’s body has sadly betrayed him in recent years. Go back to 2020 and back spasms had him in and out of action. Go back to 2018 and he dealt with biceps tendinitis. Fourteen MLB seasons will do that to you. So it’s safe to say if Kershaw returns to LA (please) that his next deal will have to be part generous and part incentive-laden. He’s made just 32 starts over the last two seasons. One could argue that’s not enough to merit being one of the highest-paid pitchers in the game, especially when you’re rehabbing an injured elbow.

So do we agree with this contract prediction for the left-hander, assuming it’s a deal with the Dodgers?

Here’s what R.J. Anderson of CBS Sports suggested for Kershaw:

“Kershaw is a tough pitcher to pin down. The most similar talents on the market — that is, hurlers with storied careers and some injury risk — have signed contracts worth three years and $130 million (Max Scherzer) and two years and $50 million (Justin Verlander). Kershaw isn’t actively coming off Tommy John surgery, the way Verlander is, so we’ll err toward aggression with a guess of three years, $80 million.”

Hmm. Kershaw’s last contract extension was for three years and $93 million, a $31 million AAV, but that came after two World Series berths and a Cy Young runner up finish. Now? This three-year deal would put him in the $26.66 AAV range, which isn’t the most expensive, but it’s fairly considerable. We know Kershaw’s “bad” seasons are still better than just about anybody else’s good ones, but is this an investment the Dodgers would consider? Wouldn’t it be smarter to take it year by year?

Or … was this contract prediction for the Texas Rangers, who still have tons of money to spend, to land him? No! Don’t you dare …

This prediction isn’t gospel, but it’s certainly worth pondering. If Kershaw wanted to “take some time” to think things over this offseason, we highly doubt that meant, “OK, I’m going to decide if I want to retire, leave, or sign another multi-year contract with the Dodgers.” In all likelihood, it was retirement or take it season-by-season with whatever team he felt most comfortable with.

And from an investment standpoint, we know Kershaw’s performances and presence are priceless, but that kind of a commitment to an aging pitcher whose decline from a health standpoint has been well documented over the last four years certainly seems a bit aggressive. We’re also basing this on the way the team handled both Corey Seager and Max Scherzer this offseason. You’re not going to pay those guys and then you’re going to potentially overpay for someone whose best days might finally be in the rearview? All we’re saying is that we don’t really see him signing a near identical contract to his last one based on the output and longevity.

If that’s what it takes to keep him, though, then so be it. It’s just money.