To be a lifelong Dodger or not to be a lifelong Dodger, that is the question — for Clayton Kershaw, at least. After the Dodgers signed James Paxton on Monday, giving them their much-needed back of the rotation arm, it made the possibility of Kershaw returning to LA in free agency seem even more distant, despite the Dodgers "keeping a door open" for him.
If the Dodgers do want him back, they seem to have competition. Rumblings of Kershaw, a Texas native, going to the Rangers in free agency (subscription required) for what could be his last year before retirement started up once again earlier in the offseason. The Rangers have made a few offseason additions so far, but they might also be holding out on making any big money acquisitions. Jordan Montgomery still hasn't signed with a new team yet and could head back to Arlington.
However, might they also spend on Kershaw, especially if they miss out on Montgomery? Kershaw's ties to the Rangers don't end with him just being from Texas; he also played high school ball with Rangers GM Chris Young. They were reunited on Thursday night for a jersey retirement ceremony at their alma mater in Highland Park, Texas, reviving Kershaw-Rangers speculation.
Clayton Kershaw and Rangers GM Chris Young reunited, reigniting Kershaw-Rangers rumors
Young has spoken fondly about his relationship with Kershaw, which is two decades old at this point. Although he's said that he's always wanted their relationship to go beyond baseball, this particular reunion should give the Dodgers pause. The Rangers won the World Series last year; the Dodgers went out with a whimper in the NLDS (which, to be fair, was actually partially Kershaw's fault). The Rangers need as many arms as possible to rejoin the rotation midsummer, along with Max Scherzer in his return from herniated disc surgery and Jacob deGrom; the Dodgers' rotation is pretty much set.
It's not as though having Kershaw back would be just for old times' sake, though that could be a major part of it. He went from seventh overall Dodgers draft pick to all but guaranteed first-ballot Hall of Famer with LA. Seeing him in anything but a Dodgers uniform would feel otherworldly. However, closing his career out with the Rangers could also be valuable for old times' sake — different, sure, but still potentially potent. If the Dodgers do actively want Kershaw to return, they're going to need to start working a little faster.