The 2023 season is shaping up to be Clayton Kershaw's first fully healthy campaign with the Los Angeles Dodgers since 2015 (don't worry, we just knocked on wood repeatedly). The left-hander is 8-4 with a 2.95 ERA, 3.36 FIP, 1.09 WHIP and 93 strikeouts in 13 starts (76.1 innings).
But it's even more encouraging that he's been good for a 2.1 WAR thus far after accumulating marks of 3.8, 2.4, 1.8, 3.3 and 3.3 dating back to 2018. He's on pace to replicate something like his 2017 season, when he made 27 starts (175 innings) and finished second in the Cy Young voting with an 18-4 record, 2.31 ERA, 3.07 FIP, 0.95 WHIP, 4.9 WAR and 202 strikeouts.
As fans are very much aware, Kershaw is again on a one-year deal, meaning his Dodgers career could end after the 2023 season. Then again, he did return when he had an opportunity to leave this past offseason, as LA willingly downgraded their roster as a number of key players walked out the door.
Kershaw talked about how he trusted the organization's vision playing a role in his return ... but you heard the LA Times! The controversy with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence could be the determining factor. Just kidding.
Fans should be worried about something else as it pertains to Kershaw leaving LA in the offseason, however. This resurgence of health for the future Hall of Famer could really alter his future.
Could Rangers injuries affect Clayton Kershaw's free agency?
The only other team Kershaw would play for, the Texas Rangers (which he admitted), is currently 41-23 and in first place in the AL West. They have the best offense in MLB and just lost Jacob deGrom to season-ending Tommy John surgery (and he could be out for all of 2024, too).
Taking into account the contracts both Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander signed with the New York Mets, as well as deGrom's $185 million deal with the Rangers entering his age-35 season, might Kershaw opt for a payday closer to home so he can extend his playing days and be nearer to his family?
The left-hander did say he enjoys the idea of signing one-year contracts because it gives him flexibility, but if he can get paid nearly double the AAV in his home state and be backed by the league's best offense, why wouldn't he consider that? Maybe he gets a player option for the second (or third) years so he can control his future?
Are we so sure the Rangers would offer him that kind of a short-term deal, though? Well, based on the fact they're losing deGrom for nearly two full seasons and will have some money to spend with Martin Perez's ~$20 million coming off the books (among a few other contracts), they might look to capitalize on this promising window and then boast a trio of Kershaw, deGrom and Nathan Eovaldi in 2025.
With the way the Dodgers season seems to be going off the rails a bit with no reinforcements on the way, it's not out of the question that Kershaw would consider something like this if 2023 doesn't end -- or at least offer a clearer road map for next couple seasons -- the way he envisioned.