The 2022 Los Angeles Dodgers were let down by their suddenly-anemic offense with runners in scoring position and some incredibly poor bullpen decisions by Dave Roberts, which earned enough scorn to overshadow Clayton Kershaw’s totally fine, not great Game 2 (without Austin Barnes behind the dish).
Criticism of Kershaw wasn’t warranted. In fact, his line was very similar to that of opposing pitcher Yu Darvish, who was showered with praise for keeping the Dodgers at bay.
The start was yet another reminder, though, of an aging Kershaw’s limitations. If the 34-year-old future Hall of Famer is brought back for his age-35 season, the Dodgers will be getting a very capable starting pitcher, but not an ace who can seamlessly fill in for an injured Walker Buehler. They’ll be getting a solid starter with a spectacular curveball whose durability can rightly be questioned; Kershaw missed the 2021 postseason, as well as sometime this year with a back injury. They’ll be getting a franchise legend whose best days, they have to accept, are already behind him.
Or, that’s what they would be getting if Kershaw decides to come back at all.
According to Kershaw’s postgame post-mortem after the Dodgers fell far too early in four games, the left-hander revealed that he’s still considering a return to the game next year. He thinks.
As for where that return will be, the man himself might not even know.
So, Clayton Kershaw’s coming back. To the Dodgers, or the Rangers?
“Going home” might just be Texas. “Being a full-time dad” would be outright retirement.
But with continued holes in the Rangers rotation, and with pitching upgrades necessary in LA whether or not Kershaw is brought back, the leap to join Corey Seager in Texas might be even more appealing as he ages.
And, after all, he does have his well-earned Dodgers ring already.
The Dodgers will have pitching vacancies to patch whether or not Kershaw returns. If he is the choice for one of LA’s 2023 rotation spots, he shouldn’t be penciled in as the automatic ace. If he isn’t, the team will need to aim much higher than Tyler Anderson/Andrew Heaney reunions to fill Max Scherzer’s shoes.
As Robert Murray of The Baseball Insiders has repeatedly insisted, there is reason to believe the Dodgers are among the very few Jacob deGrom landing spots in MLB. If that is the case, and both parties are interested in a union, Kershaw might not have the chance to make a grand statement about whether or not he’s staying in LA.
The Dodgers might just make it for him.