Los Angeles Dodgers fans can shelve their worries just one day after the MLB lockout was lifted. Clayton Kershaw is reportedly returning to the team on a one-year deal, slamming the door on retirement and departure rumors that have plagued the last three months of the news cycle.
But this move doesn’t come without caveats. Shortly after this news hit the timeline, it was reported that Trevor Bauer’s administrative leave would be extended another week, meaning he cannot report to spring training. It’s not like it matters anyway, because many expect the right-hander to never suit up for LA again, regardless of the outcome of MLB’s investigation.
More importantly, though, is the injury concern surrounding Kershaw, who dealt with a UCL issue in his pitching elbow, which prematurely ended his 2021 campaign. There have hardly been any updates on his progress this offseason, but his return suggests the Dodgers are confident he’ll be able to contribute in a meaningful manner.
Then again … what will his output look like? Kershaw hasn’t appeared in 30 or more regular season games in a single campaign since 2015. And he’s thrown just 180 innings across 2020 and 2021, which, while not egregiously low, isn’t enough for an ace-like performer of Kershaw’s caliber given all of the Dodgers’ rotation needs.
Clayton Kershaw is back with the Dodgers as Trevor Bauer remains away
Seems all that chatter about the Dodgers’ most prized free agents signing quickly after the lockout was true … and the buzz about the future Hall of Famer’s career with the only franchise he’s ever known can be put to rest. He’ll reportedly earn around $20 million for the 2021 season.
In the event of this move, fans can probably expect more starting pitching depth additions when considering the possible limitations that will be placed on Kershaw as well as Dustin May, who underwent Tommy John surgery just a month into last year.
As for Bauer, the “good” news here is that not many were factoring in his presence for the 2022 campaign, so it’s likely the front office was always under the impression that more arms were needed.
The bad news, though? The longer Bauer’s case remains in purgatory, the less clarity the Dodgers have with the money they owe him. If he’s suspended for an extended period of time (which is reportedly expected) or even the entire year, LA can recoup up to $32 million against the luxury tax. If not, and this lasts into the regular season, there won’t be much the team can do if that money is still floating around and being paid to the veteran as he remains away from the game.
But that larger discussion is for another time. Kershaw, a Dodgers legend is every respect, is back for what could be the last true hurrah. This current core could be fully displaced as early as 2023, and Kershaw’s one-year deal aligns with that possibility.
And he’ll have at least one more chance to stand atop the baseball world with the Dodgers, who will be among the World Series favorites when they’re done adding to the roster before Opening Day.