Clayton Kershaw Rumors

Heyman’s Latest: Dodgers/Hamels, Braves, Frazier, Price, Brewers, Upton

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports kicks off his weekly Inside Baseball column by reporting that the Dodgers have “quietly continued having dialogue with the Phillies” regarding Cole Hamels. The Dodgers are also giving serious consideration to the rental market and prioritizing Johnny Cueto over others among such targets. The Dodgers “appear determined” to land a top-of-the-rotation arm to pair with Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, writes Heyman, but most executives think they’ll hold onto top prospects Corey Seager and Julio Urias. The Dodgers have a deep farm system beyond that pairing (righty Jose De Leon has recently been ranked a Top 25 prospect by Baseball America and ESPN), and one exec tells Heyman that the Phillies’ asking price on Hamels has become “more reasonable” recently. The Dodgers feel that Greinke is a lock to opt out of his contract at the end of the season, and while they could possibly re-sign him by adding a year or two to the deal and upping his $24.5MM AAV, Hamels would provide insurance should Greinke sign elsewhere. Jeff Samardzija is also a consideration for the Dodgers, but while they like him, they consider him more of a No. 2/3 starter and don’t love him.

Some more highlights from Heyman’s article, though the synopsis won’t cover everything within the piece, so I’d highly recommend reading it in its entirety…

  • The Braves will be deadline sellers, Heyman hears, with Jim Johnson, Juan Uribe and Cameron Maybin among the players that will be available to interested teams. Chris Johnson, too, continues to be available, but there are no takers for his contract, which Atlanta has aggressively tried to move in the past.
  • With the Reds expected to trade so many veterans to other clubs, many in the industry expect the team to make a run at extending Todd Frazier beyond his current two-year deal, Heyman writes. (Frazier has one more year of arbitration following his current pact.) Jeff Todd and I have discussed Frazier’s situation on the MLBTR Podcast in the past (and will do so again this afternoon), and I’ve personally taken the stance that given the significant commitments to Joey Votto and Homer Bailey, the Reds could have a difficult time affording Frazier, whose 2014-15 breakout has hugely inflated his price tag. Given the lack of impact bats on the trade market, Frazier would net a king’s ransom and could rapidly expedite the rebuilding process, though the PR hit of trading him with so much control and on the heels of a Home Run Derby victory would of course be significant.
  • In other Reds news, Heyman hears Mike Leake‘s ground-ball tendencies are appealing to AL East clubs, and he’s drawn interest from the Blue Jays, Orioles and Red Sox in addition to the Royals, Dodgers, Rangers, Cubs and Giants. Manny Parra and Marlon Byrd are both “likely to go” as well.
  • Asked about the possibility of signing with the Cubs this offseason due to his relationship with skipper Joe Maddon, Tigers ace David Price replied, “Wherever I play baseball next year it’s not going to be because of a manager.”
  • The Astros are interested in both Cueto and Leake, and Houston seems willing to deal from its glut of MLB-ready outfield prospects, including Domingo Santana and Preston Tucker. (Previous reports have indicated they’re reluctant to part with Brett Phillips, however, who may be the best among the outfield bunch.)
  • The Brewers are now showing a willingness to trade both Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura, Heyman hears. Though it was previously believed they were reluctant to move Segura, the emergence of Orlando Arcia (the younger brother of the Twins’ Oswaldo Arcia) may have changed Milwaukee’s thinking. However, Arcia himself is also drawing a huge amount of trade interest, and the Padres have called to express interest. One NL exec called him the best player he’s seen in the minors this year, while another comped him to Francisco Lindor, but said Arcia is better. Regarding Segura, Heyman hears that the Mets dislike his free-swinging approach.
  • The Twins aren’t closed off to the idea of re-acquiring Gomez from the Brewers, but their primary focus at this point is bullpen help.
  • The Mets are aiming high in their pursuit of an outfield bat and have both Gomez and Justin Upton on their radar. They’re not likely to add Aramis Ramirez from the Brewers unless they receive bad news on the prognosis of David Wright. They also have little interest in swinging a deal for Uribe.
  • Padres officials insist that they haven’t determined their course of action heading into the deadline, but Heyman writes that free-agents-to-be such as Upton, Ian Kennedy, Joaquin Benoit and Will Venable could be traded regardless. James Shields‘ backloaded contract limits his value, but one GM felt Benoit has “big value” and Heyman notes that Craig Kimbrel would be in huge demand as well, should the Padres try to recoup some value from that deal.
  • Cueto, Samardzija and Leake are atop the Blue Jays‘ wish list, and the team was also in talks with the Braves regarding Jason Grilli prior to his season-ending injury. A top starting pitcher is Toronto’s top priority at this point, says Heyman. He also adds that there’s no evidence to suggest that manager John Gibbons is on the hot seat.

Mike Trout, Clayton Kershaw Win MVP Awards

Angels center fielder Mike Trout and Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw have won the American League and National League MVP Awards, respectively.

The 23-year-old Trout won in unanimous fashion — the first to do so since Ken Griffey Jr. in 1997. Trout’s unanimous selection came on the heels of yet another dominant season, as he batted .287/.377/.561 with career-highs in homers (36), runs scored (115) and RBIs (111). Many feel that Trout should have been named the MVP in both the 2012 and 2013 seasons, but the consensus top player in the game now has an MVP to place on his mantle and should probably leave room for a few more to eventually stand by its side.

Trout’s 420 points were the most possible, and rounding out the top 10 in the AL were Victor Martinez (229), Michael Brantley (185), Jose Abreu (145), Jose Bautista (128), Robinson Cano (124), Nelson Cruz (102), Josh Donaldson (96), Miguel Cabrera (82) and Felix Hernandez (48). The full ballot is available in this Google doc from the BBWAA.

Kershaw edged out Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton, finishing with 355 points to 298. Kershaw missed a month with back inflammation but still put together one of the best seasons in recent history. In 198 1/3 innings, Kershaw posted a career-best 1.77 ERA with 10.9 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9. Kershaw’s effort won him his third Cy Young Award in the past four years and resulted in a total of 7.5 rWAR and 7.2 fWAR despite the missed time on the DL.

Behind Kershaw and Stanton in the top 10 were Andrew McCutchen (271), Jonathan Lucroy (167), Anthony Rendon (155), Buster Posey (152), Adrian Gonzalez (57), Adam Wainwright (53), Josh Harrison (52) and Anthony Rizzo (37). The full ballot is available in this Google Doc from the BBWAA.

Clayton Kershaw, Corey Kluber Win Cy Young Awards

Clayton Kershaw and Corey Kluber have won the National League and American League Cy Young Awards, respectively.

Kershaw was a unanimous winner, with Johnny Cueto and Adam Wainwright finishing second and third, respectively. Madison Bumgarner finished in fourth place (obligatory caveat: votes were due before the postseason commenced), while Jordan Zimmermann, Cole Hamels, Zack Greinke, Doug Fister, Jake Arrieta, Craig Kimbrel, Stephen Strasburg and Henderson Alvarez rounded out the ballot. The award marks Kershaw’s third Cy Young in four seasons.

Kluber, a breakout star with the Indians, edged out Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, who finished second. Kluber received a total of 169 points in the voting, while Hernandez received 159. Rounding out the ballot were Chris Sale, Jon Lester, Max Scherzer, David Price, Phil Hughes, Wade Davis and Greg Holland. Kluber posted an 18-9 record with a 2.44 ERA, 10.3 K/9, 1.9 BB/9 and a 48 percent ground-ball rate in 235 2/3 innings.

Kershaw To Open Season On Disabled List

Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw has been placed on the disabled list, tweets Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. Hyun-jin Ryu is now slated to start the club's home opener on Friday, Shaikin adds (via Twitter).

Kershaw has struggled with inflammation of a back muscle this spring, though he was able to start the team's first game of the season, which was held in Australia against the Diamondbacks. The move likely stems from an abundance of caution after the Dodgers inked the lefty to a seven-year, $215MM extension this winter. Commenting on the move, manager Don Mattingly offered that the club merely aims to protect Kershaw from himself, according to another Shaikin tweet.

However, the decision has to be cause for at least some concern. Kershaw indicated as recently as Wednesday that he planned to start the April 4 matchup with the Giants, but that duty now falls to Ryu.

NL West Notes: Kershaw, Figgins, Sipp, Sandoval

Clayton Kershaw has been scratched from the Dodgers' North American opener against the Padres on Sunday, the club announced.  The left-hander is suffering from inflammation of the teres major muscle in his upper back and the Dodgers are understandably being very cautious with their ace, though Kershaw still intends to start the Dodgers' home opener against the Giants on April 4.  Kershaw also told reporters (including's Ken Gurnick) that he didn't believe his injury was caused either by his 102-pitch outing in the Dodgers' opener against the Diamondbacks or the long flights back and forth from Australia.

Here's some more from around the NL West…

  • Chone Figgins is thankful to be back on a Major League roster after his struggles of the last few seasons, which included missing the entire 2013 campaign, the utilityman tells Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times.  Figgins signed a minor league deal with the Dodgers in January and while he hasn't hit much in Spring Training, his on-base ability and positional versatility were enough for him to win a bench job.
  • Tony Sipp won't opt out of his contract with the Padres,'s Chris Cotillo reports (via Twitter).  Sipp was told earlier in the week that he wouldn't make San Diego's Opening Day roster and he could've opted out of his minor league deal today, but will instead report to Triple-A.  The southpaw faces another opt-out date on June 1.
  • At least two years and $50MM separate Pablo Sandoval and the Giants in extension talks, and the large gap is indicative of how wary the Giants are about committing a long-term deal to Sandoval, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle writes.  Notable players like Curt Schilling, Carlos Lee and Delmon Young have signed contracts with weight clauses in the past, but the MLBPA "frowns on them, especially for marquee free agents."  Shea lists the Yankees, Dodgers and Red Sox as teams who could be looking for a third base upgrade next winter when Sandoval is a free agent, and Shea thinks Sandoval could find his price on the open market.

Quick Hits: Prospects, Cruz, Yoon, Madson, Baker's Jim Callis has an interesting breakdown of the dollars committed to the game's top prospects. Over $228MM has already been committed by teams to the prospects listed among's top 100. Meanwhile,'s Keith Law has released his own prospect rankings (Insider links), naming the Astros' system as the game's best and tabbing Byron Buxton of the Twins as the best overall prospect. In his own top 101 prospects list, Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus agrees with Buxton as the top choice, which certainly appears to be the consensus. And Baseball America has completed its listing of the ten best prospects by team.

Here are some more links from around the game:

  • The Twins are keeping tabs on free agent outfielder Nelson Cruz, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN, but are a long shot to land him. Minnesota is probably only interested if Cruz drops his price fairly significantly, Wolfson adds, guessing that the club would probably only be involved at two years with an average annual value at or below the $10MM mark.
  • Likewise, the Twins are waiting for the price to fall on South Korean hurler Suk-min Yoon, Wolfson reports (Twitter links). When Wolfson floated the number of two years and $10MM total to his source, he was told that cost was likely too steep for Minnesota.
  • Free agent reliever Ryan Madson plans to hold a full public workout on February 7th, reports Jerry Crasnick of (Twitter links). The 33-year-old threw yesterday for an unknown club that is reportedly a leading candidate to land him, Crasnick adds. 
  • Starter Scott Baker chose the Mariners over offers from the IndiansRangers, and Royals, reports Wolfson (via Twitter). The Twins never had interest in a reunion, Wolfson adds.
  • Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers were discussing a deal in the range of $200MM to $205MM over the summer, tweets Jon Heyman of By waiting until he wrapped up a Cy Young campaign, Kershaw was able to secure a deal with a $215MM guarantee.

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'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.'s Ramona Shelburne first reported the signing and its terms (via Twitter). Jon Heyman of 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.

Reactions To The Clayton Kershaw Extension

Dodgers owner Mark Walter says one reason his team decided to give Clayton Kershaw a new $215MM contract is a cautionary tale about the Cubs and Greg Maddux, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports. In 1992, a 26-year-old Maddux won his first Cy Young award as a Cub, but the Cubs let him leave as a free agent after the season. He won three more straight Cy Young awards, but he won them all with the Braves. The Braves then went to the playoffs four times before the Cubs got back to the postseason again. Here are more reactions to the Kershaw extension.

  • $215MM is "crazy" money, but that doesn't mean the Kershaw deal is a bad idea, writes FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal. Rosenthal notes that, last summer, the Dodgers offered Kershaw a seven-year deal in the vicinity of $200MM, so their willingness to go slightly higher helped get the deal done. Rosenthal also notes that Kershaw's opt-out clause, which allows him to leave after five years, is a key part of the deal, since opt-out clauses are very player-friendly.
  • Kershaw is close to being "the Mike Trout of pitchers," Dave Cameron of Fangraphs writes. Health permitting, he could well end up "the best pitcher of his generation." The contracts for Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez helped set a baseline for Kershaw — Kershaw is better than either one, and was a year closer to free agency. Cameron also writes that, unless Kershaw gets hurt, he will probably opt out of his contract in five years. It appears he sacrificed a bit of upfront money in the contract in order to have the right to opt out of it.
  • If you're going to give a pitcher $215MM, Kershaw is exactly the kind of pitcher who should get it, Steven Goldman of SB Nation writes. He's still just 25 and has a solid health record, and the Dodgers have gone relatively easy on his arm.

Dodgers Trying To Extend Kershaw This Week

2:07pm: Dodgers president Stan Kasten has confirmed that the club is looking to complete a deal with Kershaw in the near term, according to a tweet from Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. "I am hopeful that, by the [arbitration exchange] deadline Friday morning, we can work something out," Kasten said in reference to Kershaw.

Kasten also left the impression that a Kershaw extension would not preclude the club from pursuing Masahiro Tanaka, Shaikin further tweets. Though he declined to discuss the Japanese hurler, Kasten said that he does not "think any one contract impacts any other."

11:15am: ESPN's Buster Olney says Kershaw and the Dodgers are "at the two- or the one-yard line" in terms of completing a record-setting extension (video link).

8:28am: The Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw are discussing an extension, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, who reports that the team would like to have an agreement in place by Friday. Los Angeles' preference is to have a deal in place by the time the two sides are set to exchange arbitration figures.

Rosenthal reports that the two sides were close on a seven-year, $210MM extension last season before the Dodgers backed off and adds that early in the negotiation process, a 10-year, $250MM contract and a 12-year, $300MM pact were discussed. Rosenthal also reports that the near-agreement last season contained an opt-out after the fifth year that would've allowed Kershaw to hit the open market again at age 30. The Dodgers gave Zack Greinke an opt-out after three years of his deal, and Kershaw has the same agency — Excel Sports Management.

Kershaw is fresh off his third straight National League ERA title and his second Cy Young in three years, having pitched to a 1.83 ERA in 2013. Over the past five seasons, Kershaw has pitched to an incredible 2.43 ERA with 9.3 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9, and his command has improved in each of those seasons. He averaged nearly five walks per nine innings as a 21-year-old in 2009 but averaged just two per nine innings last season. Kershaw's accomplishments make it seem as though he's older than he actually is, but incredibly, he's still entering just his age-26 season.

As MLBTR's Tim Dierkes noted back in April, CC Sabathia's $161MM guarantee is the largest "new money" extension ever signed by a pitcher, though Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez have had larger guarantees that included the money from previously existing deals. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projected an $18.2MM salary for Kershaw next season if the two sides simply work out a one-year deal via arbitration, but a long-term deal would obviously require a significantly larger annual value.

Quick Hits: Kershaw, Tanaka, Matsuzaka, Twins

Bargains abound on the free agent market, opines Doug Miller of Miller lists the following sleeper candidates for solid production in 2014: catcher Michael McKenry, first bagger Casey Kotchman, outfielders Chris Coghlan, Derrick Robinson, Grady Sizemore, and Tyler Colvin, and pitchers James McDonaldSuk-min Yoon, and David Aardsma. Here are a few more links to round out the day:

  • Ace Clayton Kershaw has had ongoing discussions with the Dodgers about an extension that could reach ten seasons with over a $30MM annual salary, says Ken Gurnick of Club GM Ned Colletti said just recently that talks have been active, and of course the club reportedly extended Kershaw a $300MM offer during the 2013 season. Such a deal would make Kershaw the best paid player in baseball history, both in terms of total guarantee and annual salary.
  • Meanwhile, the Dodgers are still in on the biggest open market pitcher of the offseason, Masahiro Tanaka. As Mark Saxon of explains, the Yankees have an urgent need for Tanaka, while the Dodgers more aptly want the hurler. If Los Angeles nevertheless outbids the Yanks for the Japanese star, says Saxon, it would represent a fundamental power shift in the game. 
  • You can count the Athletics out of the mix for Tanaka, reports Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (via Twitter). Though GM Billy Beane surprised many when he nabbed Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, Slusser says that Oakland is not pursuing Tanaka.
  • Reports earlier this evening that Daisuke Matsuzaka had re-signed with the Mets proved untrue, as multiple reports made clear. But Matsuzaka still realistically could land in New York on a minor league deal, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports. He would compete with in-house options for the club's fifth and final rotation slot.
  • The Twins have hit before on the international market, and may now have their eyes on a couple of Cuban pitchers. According to a report on Twitter from 1500 ESPN Darren Wolfson, Minnesota sent three scouts to Mexico to see hurlers Misael Siverio and Odrisamer Despaigne throw in a showcase.