Dodgers Extend Clayton Kershaw

The Dodgers have officially announced the extension of ace Clayton Kershaw, who receives a groundbreaking seven-year, $215MM contract one year before he would have qualified for free agency. Notably, the deal includes an out clause that the southpaw can exercise after five seasons, at which time he will still be just 30 years old.

Kershaw

Kershaw's representatives at Excel Sports Management have secured their client the highest-ever annual salary for a baseball player. His $30.7MM AAV bests those achieved in the one-year, $28MM deal for Roger Clemens back in 2007 and Alex Rodriguez's ten-year, $275MM deal.

Kershaw's extension also gives him more new money than any pitcher contract in baseball history. Indeed, the deal exceeds the next biggest commitment — the seven-year, $161MM C.C. Sabathia deal — by a whopping $54MM. Likewise, it dwarfs other, more recent guarantees, including Zack Greinke's $147MM free agent pact and the extensions of Cole Hamels ($144M in new money), Justin Verlander ($140MM), and Felix Hernandez ($135.5MM). 

Though it does not have a no-trade clause, Kershaw's contract contains language that would significantly impact his rights in a trade scenario. First and foremost, Kershaw would obtain the right to void the deal if traded. If he is sent to another club mid-season, he could void the rest of the deal before the start of the following season. If, instead, Kershaw is dealt during the offseason, he gets the right to void the remainder of the contract after the end of the ensuing campaign. He would also pick up a one-time, $3MM bonus if he is traded during the offseason.

Obviously, these clauses present a significant barrier to any trade, at least until the point at which Kershaw's opt-out clause would otherwise be available to him. In particular, they convey immense leverage to Kershaw to demand a massive, new extension from any team that wishes to acquire him. 

Kershaw's salary will be somewhat backloaded. The big lefty will earn $22MM in 2014, $18MM of which is a signing bonus and only $4MM of which is in salary. His salary then tracks as follows: $30MM (2015), $32MM (2016), $33MM (2017), $33MM (2018), $32MM (2019), and $33MM (2020). The deal also contains incentives: Kershaw stands to earn $1MM for a Cy Young campaign and $500K for landing second or third in the voting. 

This means that the opt-out decision facing Kershaw after the 2018 season will effectively be a two-year, $65MM proposition. If he leaves that money on the table, the deal would end up paying him $150MM over five years, good for a straight $30MM AAV.

Kershaw's nearly unprecedented level of early-career performance had lined him up for a projected $18.15MM arbitration payday this year, in the analysis of MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz. As MLBTR's Tim Dierkes notes on Twitter, that would imply an approximately $32.8MM AAV ($197MM over six years) for Kershaw's free agent years.

Indeed, Kershaw's historic contract was earned by a legitimately historic run in his career's early going. The soon-to-be 26-year-old became only the third pitcher in MLB history — following Greg Maddux and Lefty Grove — to lead the big leagues in ERA for three straight seasons, which he accomplished after posting the low mark again last year. He has registered a close second to Verlander in terms of fWAR (18.5 against 19.1) among starters over that same time period.

Last year was Kershaw's best season yet, as he posted a 1.83 ERA in 236 innings, leading the league in strikeouts (232) and WHIP (0.915) to go along with his ERA title. The net of his MLB career to date is a 2.60 ERA in 1,180 innings, buttressed by 9.2 K/9 against 3.0 BB/9. He has made at least 30 starts in every year since 2009 and has thrown over 200 innings for each of the last four seasons. Needless to say, Kershaw has been both outstanding and durable.

For the Dodgers, Kershaw adds a massive, but seemingly manageable, new obligation to the books. As I explained back in November, Los Angeles was running away from the rest of the league in terms of post-2014 salary obligations. Though major signings by clubs like the Yankees and Rangers have evened things out somewhat in the interim, L.A. will continue to set the pace on future spending. But that spending level is backed up by an unmatched $340MM local TV revenue stream.

As I further explored, the Dodgers stand to gain the most out of any team in baseball from an inflationary salary environment, as their massive obligations stand to see the largest decrease in real value as salaries rise. The money owed Kershaw, too, could reduce substantially in relative terms if salary trends continue upward. Moreover, as also illustrated in that piece, Los Angeles has a huge ramp-down in its future commitments beginning after the 2018 season, which creates some additional breathing room. But with the opt out landing at that same point, that salary space could ultimately end up going towards yet another extension.

As Dierkes notes on Twitter, Kershaw's contract is the ninth MLB deal to include an opt-out clause. Of the other eight deals, only those agreed to by Vernon Wells and Elvis Andrus came by way of extension rather than free agency. 

Looking at the broader market impact, the Kershaw extension will undoubtedly be pointed to in negotiations regarding other top starters. Major arms that are set for free agency next year include Max Scherzer, James Shields, and Jon Lester, with David Price headlining the 2016 crop. Though Kershaw may be in a league of his own given his age and track record, his new deal certainly stretches the scale of reasoanbly attainable salaries upwards.

ESPN.com's Ramona Shelburne first reported the signing and its terms (via Twitter). Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com first reported the annual payment structure on Twitter. Joel Sherman of the New York Post first reported the deal's trade provisions (all links to Twitter). 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Leave a Reply

372 Comments on "Dodgers Extend Clayton Kershaw"


JCurrie39
1 year 6 months ago

Wow I thought it would be more but it is a huge 32 mil per year average

MB923
1 year 6 months ago

More money or years? Or both?

JCurrie39
1 year 6 months ago

Years and money I felt like 8/240 to 8/250

pollbuster2
1 year 6 months ago

The difference is immaterial to comment about.

MB923
1 year 6 months ago

Probably the best $200 million contract ever given

Brandon Mason
1 year 6 months ago

Until Mike Trout Gets His $200 Million +

MB923
1 year 6 months ago

Trout may get the first $300 million one

vtadave
1 year 6 months ago

Or $400 million by that time…

LazerTown
1 year 6 months ago

Doubt it. Trout is good, but he is still human, and teams aren’t going to spend that much yet on him.

$3513744
1 year 6 months ago

I heard Seattle fans say that about A-Rod once.

Brandon Mason
1 year 6 months ago

I Agree, but I’m Saying He’s Worth It. Like you Said “Kershaw is probably the best $200 Million contract ever given”

JJ
1 year 6 months ago

or Miguel Cabrera

Matt Mccarron
1 year 6 months ago

Cabrera won’t hit free agency until his age 32/33 season. Highly doubt he gets a 300M contract at age 33. Would have to be signed thru age 43 at 30M a year.

JJ
1 year 6 months ago

Trout should get more years but Miggy should get more money annually.

Matt Mccarron
1 year 6 months ago

Agreed but I still think Trout will get move since he offers more then Miggy.

nbgiant25
1 year 6 months ago

If Trout plays up to the level that he has in his first two seasons, his contract will embarrass whatever Miggy pulls down, in both years and AAV.

When ESPN was talking about it a while back, execs were saying that if he were on a year to year contract situation, he might be able to get $50 mil a year.

bobskube
1 year 6 months ago

The angels may need a 3bman.

ThisGuyRocks
1 year 6 months ago

Not really. A team could do a shorter deal with a higher AAV

williswinning
1 year 6 months ago

The laughs will be on whoever does that.

Dave
1 year 6 months ago

Something said before almost all of them.

Might be worth it, but if I were the Dodgers I’m hoping that 5 year escape is mutual.

I don’t think he’d have gotten a lot more on the market, so I’m not real sure this is even a great “deal” other than the fact that they don’t have to worry that he’d take 33m/year from Seattle instead.

MB923
1 year 6 months ago

“Something said before almost all of them.”

If you mean something that was never said by anybody, then yeah.

dieharddodgerfan
1 year 6 months ago

Agree. Dodgers have Kershaw signed from his age 25-32 years.

If he opts out, then its his age 25-30 years.

Great contract for the Dodgers!

RyanWKrol
1 year 6 months ago

Based on what? Long contracts like this are an enormous risk no matter who the player is. Still, it takes care of a lot of important business the Dodgers needed to take care of.

MB923
1 year 6 months ago

Based on length and age.

LazerTown
1 year 6 months ago

Yes, but because of his age. That could backfire though. He is 25 and already has almost 1200 innings on his arm. But it is the price you pay for a 25 yo ace in his prime.

MB923
1 year 6 months ago

25 is pretty young in baseball.

Matt Mccarron
1 year 6 months ago

Hes saying the mileage could be high on his arm already. Can’t see him pitching 7 years of 230 innings and still being able to get a huge contract after that. thats a good 2800 innings. Halladay broke down after 2700. Sabathia showed signs of slowing down after 2750 innings. 25 is young, but he shooting his bullets very early.

dieharddodgerfan
1 year 6 months ago

What I love about Logan White is that he puts an emphasis on big, sturdy starters who have clean, repeatable deliveries.

Kershaw’s has solid mechanics and has a clean delivery, thus minimizing his risk of injury. He also uses his lower half really well.

Any long-term contract is a risk, but Kershaw is as good a bet as there is to give a long-term contract to for a starting pitcher.

Lionel Bossman Craft
1 year 6 months ago

To a guy that plays only 33 out 161 games? He’s getting a million a start pretty much and I doubt he averages more then 7 innings per start over the course of the contract. If he does, his arm won’t age well.

LazerTown
1 year 6 months ago

But a pitcher has a much bigger impact than a hitter. A top hitter will only get 1/9 or so of the AB.

bobskube
1 year 6 months ago

Huh?

alphabet_soup5
1 year 6 months ago

A-Rod averaged 8 WAR per season until he opted out…

Karkat
1 year 6 months ago

Surprisingly reasonable in terms of years and where the opt-out is placed (two years of a lesser Kershaw, in the future where poor performance keeps him from opting out, is hardly a problem for the Dodgers). Seems like the two sides got along pretty well.

1 year 6 months ago

Totally. Although that’s not saying much…. Definitely one of the best 9-figure contracts ever, even coming down to the 100 mil mark.

eedwards027
1 year 6 months ago

I disagree and think it could end up the worst. All it takes is 1 arm problem

MB923
1 year 6 months ago

True but you can’t predict injuries. That may happen on his next pitch. That might not happen for 7 years. 1 hit by pitch or collision for a position player can end a whole season, possibly career.

strikethree
1 year 6 months ago

To me, this all depends how much it limits their budget for now and upcoming seasons. Obviously it’s risky to pay him this much, but it’s worse if the salary handicaps you from making more moves later on. I also believe pitchers abilities deteriorate faster and have a higher rate of injury. (although, I’m not 100% of the validity of this statement and, of course, individual players can be quite different)

If they have the financial room to spare, then it’s not all that bad of a deal. Although, you could argue that it’s doubtful the guy would’ve made that much in free agency. (let’s remember that the contact is actually worth more because of that opt-out cause)

Eric Droegemeier
1 year 6 months ago

Good deal I think. Kershaw is still young.

Tony Matias
1 year 6 months ago

Insert double-take… now!!

N.K.T.
1 year 6 months ago

Man that’s a lot of money

MB923
1 year 6 months ago

Yeah that’s A Lot of money

– A-Rod

0vercast
1 year 6 months ago

Good deal for both sides!

StantonLikeMyDaddy
1 year 6 months ago

If anyone deserves that much money, it’s him. Best pitcher in the game, young, and great with the community and philanthropist.

1 year 6 months ago

Totally agree. Such a testament to doing things right.

JJ
1 year 6 months ago

Good deal for dodgers. They were able to avoid a 10 year deal.

Eric Droegemeier
1 year 6 months ago

Now if they get Tanaka they will have arguably the games best rotation.

vtadave
1 year 6 months ago

Arguably?

thegrayrace
1 year 6 months ago

They “arguably” do without Tanaka. With him its no question.

RyanWKrol
1 year 6 months ago

No they don’t. Huge question marks behind Ryu.

Evan
1 year 6 months ago

Name a better rotation. And don’t say the Tigers. Sanchez won’t be that good again and Verlander was very hittable, plus they have questions at 4 and 5. No one has been as rock solid as Kershaw.

alphabet_soup5
1 year 6 months ago

Questions at 4 and 5? Porcello isn’t an ace but he is a sure thing to be a solid #4. Kershaw is the best MLB pitcher, but Verlander, Scherzer, and Sanchez are all better than Greinke.

Evan
1 year 6 months ago

How?Verlander seems to be declining and Sanchez had a career year he probably can’t repeat. Greinke was injured and still managed to put up great numbers.For next year I would take Greinke over those 2, no question. Plus Porcello is a marginal 4 at best.

alphabet_soup5
1 year 6 months ago

By WAR. How is Porcello a marginal 4 at best? And Verlander was born in the same year as Greinke, the consensus is he will return to form in 2014.

Evan
1 year 6 months ago

How?Verlander seems to be declining and Sanchez had a career year he probably can’t repeat. Greinke was injured and still managed to put up great numbers.For next year I would take Greinke over those 2, no question. Plus Porcello is a marginal 4 at best.

Daniel Copans
1 year 6 months ago

Nats rotation has a case. Gio, Strasburg, and J-Zimm all have ace level numbers and Fister is pretty much the best #4 in the league. If Detwiler can stay healthy or Taylor Jordan takes the spot and produces, I don’t think there’s a better 1-5 anywhere.

Netflix Sux
1 year 6 months ago

The Nats hands down. Their top 3 are number 1s on any team, dodgers have 1 plus maybe Greinke.

thegrayrace
1 year 6 months ago

Greinke was better than Strasburg, Zimmermann and Gonzalez last season. An argument could be made that Ryu was better than Zimmermann and Gonzalez, too (better ERA and ERA+).

thegrayrace
1 year 6 months ago

Haren had a rough 1st half last season, but he appeared to regain his form the 2nd half and has an excellent track record. Any team would be happy to have him in their #4 spot.

There are few teams in the league that can say their #5 spot is locked up, but Zach Lee could make an impact, Stephen Fife has been productive for the Dodgers, and if Josh Beckett has anything left in the tank at all, he’s in a contract year.

Chad Billingsley could also make an impact mid-season. Solid #3 when healthy.

Yes, strong arguments could be made for the Dodgers having the best rotation. The 1-3 spots certainly match anybody, and the 4-5 spots have a lot of potential.

MB923
1 year 6 months ago

Uhh I don’t think there is an argument there. They definitely would.

Visionsofsilver
1 year 6 months ago

There’s no arguing about it if they landed Tanaka.

Matt Mccarron
1 year 6 months ago

They arguably are the best rotation right now anyways. Throw in Tanaka they are pretty much the best rotation; A healthy Beckett? Forget about it.

thegrayrace
1 year 6 months ago

The only thing that makes me mildly optimistic about Beckett is that this is a contract year. If he has absolutely anything left, we should see it this season.

But even without Beckett… you can’t complain about Kershaw, Greinke, Ryu and Haren as your top 4, and the #5 spot can be managed by guys like Fife, Magill and Zach Lee if Beckett and Billingsley aren’t able.

Netflix Sux
1 year 6 months ago

No way is their top 4 better than the Nationals, and especially the top 3. Nats top 3 are all acess, Dodgers have 1 and a half.

thegrayrace
1 year 6 months ago

Greinke had better numbers all around last season than anyone on the Nationals staff.

Ryu had a better ERA and ERA+ than everyone except Strasburg.

I think the Nationals have an EXCELLENT rotation, but you’re underrating Greinke and Ryu both.

whynot49
1 year 6 months ago

Yes, everybody… arguably. Baseball is a game largely involving chance, and we also have never seen Tanaka throw a single MLB pitch. They would arguably be the best rotation in baseball, because there’s always a chance that another rotation will simply outperform them in 2014.

MB923
1 year 6 months ago

Well of course. Just like there’s a chance 1 year the Cubs may win the World Series.

GameMusic3
1 year 6 months ago

It is great when a set of 2 opposing comments are both up worthy.

Ji Qi
1 year 6 months ago

He can opt out at age 30 and seek for another huge contract ! This is a fair deal for Kershaw and the Dodgers.

Edictor27
1 year 6 months ago

Well Deserved, hope Dodgers sign Tanaka. Could be a dangerous 1-2 in the rotation, if Tanaka comes as advertised

Jacob Meadows
1 year 6 months ago

The Dodgers already have a dangerous 1-2 in their rotation. Adding Tanaka would give them a dangerous 1-2-3, with Ryu being a solid number two on other teams in the four spot.

thegrayrace
1 year 6 months ago

and Haren, if he continues to pitch as he did in the 2nd half of last season, a solid #3 in the Dodgers #5 spot.

EarlyMorningBoxscore
1 year 6 months ago

It’s hard to say 30 million a year is a steal, but they didn’t have to go 10 years or 300 million. That’s a win for the Dodgers, and Kershaw. Good on them.

rossington
1 year 6 months ago

Well if anyone is going to get that much money. Might as well be him. He’s the best in the game.

Eric Droegemeier
1 year 6 months ago

Which contract is better? (at the time of the signing) Votto 10 years, 225 m, or this one?

dieharddodgerfan
1 year 6 months ago

Oh, Kershaw’s deal is better for the Dodgers, no doubt.

Kershaw is only signed through age 32. Dodgers have locked up all his prime years (25-30).

MB923
1 year 6 months ago

This one. And it’s not even close (though I will say for the first 2 years of his extension, Votto has done very well)

dieharddodgerfan
1 year 6 months ago

Mutually beneficial deal for Kershaw and the Dodgers.

He can opt out after 5 years and still get a big contract at 30 yrs old.

Dodgers getting Kershaw for 7 years max under this deal is a no-brainer. He’s only signed through age 32.

Muhamed Mashkulli
1 year 6 months ago

imagine if he was a free agent, he would’ve gotten $300m easy

Mike
1 year 6 months ago

Meh. Sincerely – Mike Trout.

truroyal15
truroyal15
1 year 6 months ago

With contracts skyrocketing small market teams will never be able to keep their superstars. I love baseball but can understand why so many other people have turned their backs on the game. With no salary cap and revenue sharing being a joke, this is just bad for baseball.

anon_coward
1 year 6 months ago

why were the dodgers in last place the first quarter or so of last season?

BlueSkyLA
BlueSkyLA
1 year 6 months ago

Eight starting pitchers in six weeks. Lots of other injuries to key players.

thegrayrace
1 year 6 months ago

Injured Hanley Ramirez, injured Mark Ellis, injured Zack Greinke, injured Chris Capuano, injured Chad Billingsley, injured Stephen Fife.

Luis Cruz starting at 3B, Justin Sellers starting at SS, Brandon League closing. No Yasiel Puig.

Matt Mccarron
1 year 6 months ago

Pretty sure Rays retained Longo, Pirates retained Cutch. Mariners kept King Felix, Astros kept Aluve and just a matter of time before Marlins pay Fernadez.

slasher016
1 year 6 months ago

Mariners and Astros aren’t in small markets….

txftw
1 year 6 months ago

Dead on. If they were competitive the markets there would liven up a ton. Plus the Stros are the most profitable team in baseball because of how little they spent.

dieharddodgerfan
1 year 6 months ago

Small market teams can still retain their stars. They just will need to lock them up earlier, which actually is better for the team.

I think we’ll see more small market teams lock up their stars for their prime years.

Most free agents going forward will likely be over 30 and riskier signs for teams.

Dave
1 year 6 months ago

Yeah, but this flies in the face of “lock ’em up early” if the price for early is the same as the market would likely give.

Lets say the A’s get a guy who wins the Cy Young two years in a row at 22 and 23 with no history of injury and he also rescues puppies in the offseason.

What’s the contract? Clearly he’ll be justified in hauling in 30m+/year, or 1/2 to 1/3 of the entire payroll of the team. This contract more or less ruins the idea of locking a guy up in his younger years for a below market rate if he’s really an ace.

RyanWKrol
1 year 6 months ago

Because the Angels, Blue Jays, Cubs, and Mets all had great seasons right? Keeping your superstars can do as much harm as good. Look at all the productive major league talent teams acquired for players like Griffey and Teixeira. Most of time, those teams acquiring all that talent immediately contended. It’s about roster balance and depth, not superstars.

raltongo
1 year 6 months ago

I kind of agree with you on this…with the new TV mega-deals reinforcing the larger market teams’ dominance (in spending, anyway), it seems as though a true salary cap will never happen. The luxury tax threshold seems like a half-hearted attempt at controlling spending, but the Yanks, Dodgers, and Angels will not think twice about eclipsing the tax threshold for Tanaka.

I don’t care so much about the big contracts, its simply a market-dictated reality. Its all fine and good to see guys get paid and to see teams take risks, But that’s the thing: All of this money for Kershaw and the deal is not even a risky move by the Dodgers. Even if this deal goes completely south, its really not even going to be considered a “waste” of money because there is just so much money out there now. LA’s impending deal makes this move justifiable in so many ways, particularly because I now think of U.S. dollars in baseball as equivalent to monopoly money.

LazerTown
1 year 6 months ago

Good deal for Kershaw. Now he can hit free agency again when he is 31, and get locked up for even more money. And he gets paid the highest aav in the game. He also gets security, because there is always a chance he gets injured this year. He may have topped this total value in free agency, but this allows him 2nd shot at free agency, and nobody would have paid that high aav.

Revery
1 year 6 months ago

Somehow, someway, that actually seems a little light.